Pride and Parents

Several years ago when I was an emergency medical technician (EMT), we were toned out on a call about men in a fight at the local general store. When we arrived, the two men who had instigated the fight were gone. The two young men who were the victims were still there.

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There’s still a general store down there.

One was bruised but okay. My patient, however, had been kicked repeatedly, in ribs and in the head. He was talking to me with full cognitive abilities, but because of the mechanism of his injuries, we wanted to transport him to the hospital anyway.

I was in the back of the aid car working on him, asking him questions, getting a history, blood pressure, and so on. As a precaution, I’d put him on oxygen. I asked a question, and got no answer. When I turned to him, he was out. Completely unconscious. Within seconds. I yelled for the driver who called out the paramedics to meet us.

It was a lesson to me in three ways.

I was fairly newly certified at that time, and it was a lesson in how dangerous head injuries are, and how fast they can change for the worse. Even in someone who had presented no symptoms only moments before. It was scary, and a lesson I never forgot. He survived, and actually, a few years later, came back to town to thank me for being with him. He remembered my holding his hand, not being afraid to touch him. Of all the things that happened during his treatment, and that touch was what stood out for him.

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We look so young. This was our engagement photo.

Why you might ask? That’s the second lesson I learned.

The two young men had come to our area of the woods because there was a large and well-known private campground, that actually was across the street from our cabin. And it was a gay campground. This was back in the 1980s.

The two young men had been sitting outside the general store, waiting for an order. The other two men pulled up in a truck and asked them if they knew where the campground was. When they gave directions, those two men got out of the truck and attacked them.

Those men knew about the campground and had come to the mountains specifically looking for those who camped there. Looking for gay men to attack and beat up. I was shocked by the cruelty and bigotry. (They were eventually arrested.)

That campground was busy on weekends. It was in the woods and our place was the only neighbor. The road was narrow with trees to the edges and not much shoulder, so on weekends the road was crowded with cars on both sides.

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Which meant that in the mornings, those cars would have slashed tires, broken windshields, and nasty graffiti painted on them.

My father, from a generation when being gay wasn’t as well known, was angered by this. He took to patrolling the road in the evenings, an old man in bib overalls and black-framed glasses, with his thinning flat-top haircut, and an old Savage short-barrel shotgun over his shoulder.

Dad

He’d decided all those going to the campground were ‘his boys’ and he took on the job of watching out for them.

It quickly became known in the campground what my dad was doing. It didn’t take long before campers, men and women, were crossing the street to visit. They would sit in that tiny cabin and have coffee and cookies with my mom. They would potter around with my dad. They helped stack firewood. My parents became their surrogate parents, an old couple accepting them, not judging them, and loving them. Several long-term friendships were created.

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The cabin before a face-lift. That’s an old metal door nailed to the wall to cover where a window used to be. My dad was innovative…

I remember one man, Jeff, who became a good friend of mine, and who ended up moving permanently to the neighborhood. When I first started going out walking with the man who would become my husband, Jeff took him aside and had a talk with him. Told him if he ever hurt me, he would have to answer to Jeff.

Another friend from the campground, Kevin, had a huge crush on my husband. And my husband, being the strong and wonderful man he is, was flattered rather than horrified or embarrassed, or threatened.

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He’s not short; that’s deep snow.

Which leads me to lesson three. For as much bigotry and hatred that still exists today, and seems to be growing, there are still those who care. As Pride Month draws to a close, I hope those who love continue to outnumber those who hate.

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Rain

If you live in the Pacific Northwest you have to align with the rain. If you wait for a day without rain you’ll never breathe fresh air.

Yesterday, my sister said ‘let’s go for a walk in the woods!’. Off we went. My sister, my nephew, my great-niece, and her boyfriend. We didn’t have wet-weather gear; my sister was even in open, sandal-type shoes. We came back soaked. It was a fantastic family get-together.

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The same sister, on another day when she said ‘let’s go for a walk in the woods’

At one point my sister commented on how the mountains were hidden in the clouds. I told her I prefer them when it’s stormy, when you just get glimpses of the high peaks. When they are fully exposed on a clear sunny day, there’s no mystery, no magic, no unanswered questions. No dreams about what might be up there, no possibilities.

In other words, no stories.

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Looking toward Mt. Baring

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Looking toward Mt. Index, with a hint of Bridal Veil Falls

Many years ago we lived off-grid and generated electricity from a water wheel. This meant never-ending maintenance of the pipeline, which climbed the forested ridge. Dad and I (and any visiting family members) spent a lot of time out in the woods in all sorts of weather. I remember one time when the pipe broke and spewed creek water all night. When we reached it, there was a thick frozen waterfall from a tree branch where the pipe had shot water. It was like the tree had become one with the creek.

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We’d be out there either wet or freezing. Trying to hold onto tools, pipes slippery/slick, glue too cold, dropped screws in forest floor impossible to find within ferns and needles and water. Sometimes, miserable, we worked in silence just to get the job done. Some times we told stories.

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I’ve lost many screws, nails, and even hammers, in places like this.

One time, the ground gave way beneath my dad and he broke his leg. It was challenging getting him back down the steep trail in the rain. There was cussing involved. And fear.

I have laughed in the rain, shed tears in the rain, spent wonderful moments with close friends (and family), and also moments of precious solitude. Water always seems to be there, in the form of rain or snow, or just the whitewater rivers and creeks.

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The power of rain and river

As much as rain is a part of my life, I love the ending, after walking in the rain. Coming home to a hot fire in the wood stove and a tea kettle simmering on the top. Stripping wet clothes from clammy skin, and leaving them to steam by the fire. Slipping off soggy shoes or boots and placing them as close as possible to the heat. And then holding slightly blue hands over that heat.

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Or like I did one time, backing up to the wood stove to thaw and getting a bit too close. Steam and smoke are close kin and look a lot alike.

But I love that contrast from stepping out of the rain and coming in to the dry. I love the feeling of having been out in weather and not only managed it, but enjoyed it. I huddle by the wood stove and clutch that mug of hot tea, letting the steam warm my cheeks and realize that the ending sometimes is the best part of the story.

Photography as Art, Part 2

Photograph property of Mark Klein and used with permission

Photograph property of Mark Klein and used with permission

Seahawks anyone? Mountains? Photography, perhaps?

The similarities and differences in types of art interest me – how our creativity chooses to come out. Earlier I interviewed my photographer friend Jane, and promised a second part with a different type of photographer. I’d like you to meet Mark Klein, who, when not doing photography, can be found hovering about his coffee stand, the Espresso Chalet, under Mt. Index on highway 2 near Index, Washington. You can reach him there  or by phone at 360-793-7932. By the way, that coffee stand is where the movie ‘Harry and the Henderson’s’ was filmed so you will also see Bigfoot there. And my personal favorite is a drink called the Black Wolf – dark chocolate and cinnamon. My husband’s favorite, which I find horrifying, is called a Lift Ticket. Eight ounces, four shots of espresso, and topped off with heavy cream.

So grab your coffee, put up your feet, and hang out with Mark and I for a moment. And by the way, Mark is the photographer who made me forget the camera was there for my author photo.

When you pick up the camera, and your subject is before you, what are the first things that come to mind?

The first thing I do is to make sure my camera is on and batteries are charged and card has sufficient space to capture the moments. Then check settings accordingly for the subjects movements or ambiance. Also I’m looking to create focus on the exact point of interest where viewers will be drawn in. Some images look best with a long depth of field. Others points of interest are isolated by a short depth of field. You can totally change the mood of say, a parade, where there are many people doing the same movement or same expression where a long depth of field tells the story. Or the same window may contain a special emotion where I can concentrate focus on by zooming in  or increasing the lens opening. A certain lens (I have 12 lenses) can change everything. Telephotos can capture a special candid emotion. While a circle fisheye can broad focus on a microcosmic scene…my nickname for this lens is a “party” lens. I also use a variety of lenses and filters to bring out certain features of landscapes. So if I am just walking through the woods, I want to be ready for almost anything from a fleeting deer to a trickling stream with special natural light. So I usually set up a hiking scenario with a fast shutter speed and push the ISO to capture the creatures. Then if I find a landscape scene I would perhaps set up a tripod or change to a slower more light absorbing setting. Professional sports requires my fastest settings and lenses.

Mt. Index - photograph property of Mark Klein and used with permission.

Mt. Index – photograph property of Mark Klein and used with permission.

It seems like light and shadow could be manipulated to tell the story and I know those can be used to illuminate or create depth. But how do you know to use those tools? Or, more simply, how do you know how to use light and darkness?

I always tell new photographers to “follow the light”….that’s where magic scenes appear amongst the darkness. It can be miles away and create a tremendous capture. So also knowing how an image will respond to post production enhancements comes into play. Digital images can now be changed to appear totally different from the original. So how do I know where and when to use light…..it’s an internal perception or feeling I get much like an artist creating a painting.

Your photos, especially those that are taken outside, always look unrehearsed, as if your subjects are part of their surroundings. How do you pose them to get this natural connection with their surroundings? Or do you pose subjects?

Photography venues vary greatly as I mentioned above, but they all should contain a main theme in common with the message and that message should be the center of attention to the eye. Focus, light and color play a big part here again. I can stop sweat flying off a football player reflecting in the light during a hit or look for a quiet slow-moving post play moment that the player is reflecting on with a blurred sea of color background. Still and staged photos where the photographer controls the scenes can certainly go wrong if the subject does not feel comfortable….photography captures the exact mood of the subject….so this is epic that they feel at ease and understands and see the final image in their mind that you are trying to achieve.

As you go about daily routines, what kinds of things catch your eye and make you think, ‘that would be a great photo’? A similar question would be the more traditional ‘what inspires you?’.

What makes a top-notch photo is finding a scene that creates that uncontrollable and sometimes audible “wow” coming from your mouth or inside voice. If the scene doesn’t draw that out of you as a photographer it’s not as easy to create magic. Scenes with dramatic or unusual features and balanced fore and background help to frame the photo. Sometimes I become so excited about a scene that I have actually stumbled over logs and water, etc. to get the capture. Magic scenes don’t last forever….light changes quickly and all is lost, so you have to be ready. Even as a young boy fantastic photographs have inspired me….capturing an image that truly moves people to that “wow” place keeps me looking and hungry for the next adventure.

Property of Mark Klein and used with permission.

Property of Mark Klein and used with permission.

Storytellers ask themselves ‘what if’ and that question can be the well that stories spring from. It seems to me that this would work for photography, too. Do you have questions that you ask yourself as you move through the process?

What if……comes to mind a lot on the trail or in the moment. It’s the X factor of a scene. What if…. can be created nowadays by digital layering or it can be natural. I prefer natural “what if” because if you’re always running into Bigfoot on the trail….you can lose interest with your followers thinking your photographs are all faked.

It seems that photographers, just like painters, musicians, and writers, hope to elicit emotional reactions in their audience. Do you think about what sort of response you want as you take photographs, what you hope the photo translates to the viewer?

Once again the desired response is to create a breathtaking “wow”…..or send a clear message of the purveyance to the reader/follower.

Have you ever been surprised by someone’s emotional reaction to a photograph?

Yes I have been surprised by reactions…especially in sports or competitions where emotions run high….being photographed is not always appreciated. On the other hand shooting a crash by a mountain biker can “be like” …..”hey man, did you get my gnarly crash?” or “I hope you don’t publish that photo” …..In the latter case….I would never publish a photo the subject was not happy with….I just wouldn’t and I seem to be able to sort those out anyway.

Have you ever thought about why photography speaks to you over other art forms?

I do like many other art forms….but photography is my true passion and passion is what it takes to keep producing quality images and captures. Passion drives me to stay ahead of the curve and the ever-changing digital advancements. It’s something that just works out with my lifestyle and where we live here in the mountains.

What are one or two questions that you wish someone would ask you about photography?

I guess my favorite question is from parents at races “did you get my son or daughter on that jump”? Or ‘did you get that amazing sunset?’ On the techy side….is when I get questions from up and coming inspired photographers asking how to shoot a scene. I do like to share advice on camera gear and settings. I think I’d like to own a camera shop and sporting goods store in our next chapter……

Thanks for the opportunity to talk photography on your blog.

And one last photo from Mark for you Seahawks fans.

Property of Mark Klein and used with permission

Property of Mark Klein and used with permission