WC: Helpless

It feels somewhat easy to distance myself from the devastation in Texas, and I turn only a concerned brow toward what lies in wait for Florida.  It’s tragic, and my heart aches for all who have lost their homes and livelihoods (and all this month, I am donating 25% of all proceeds from print sales to Harvey relief efforts).  But once the news is turned off, my personal life creeps back in, pushing the drenched scenes, the tears, the pleas for help – back across the miles from whence they came.

But when tragedy strikes so close to home, I can no longer shut it out – intentionally or otherwise.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The Columbia River Gorge is one of my many playgrounds, and I’ve blogged about several hikes in the area.  In fact, I just wrote about the famous Multnomah Falls last week.  The Gorge is lush and green, spidered with tantalizing trails and breathtaking views.  It’s full of waterfalls and moss-covered trees, paths begging to be explored, and hidden nooks just waiting to be photographed.  I love it dearly, and I’ve remarked on more than one occasion how grateful I am to have it in my very own backyard.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

And as I type this, it is being destroyed.

A senseless act of recklessness sparked a massive wildfire that has consumed tens of thousands of acres of this stunning landscape.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

It has threatened homes, and it trapped hikers.  It has closed a major freeway and diverted boat traffic.

Multnomah Falls was on fire.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Visibility dwindled.  Ash sprinkled from the sky and collected on the cars.  And it has darkened the city’s skies for days, forcing residents to remain indoors to take shelter from the harmful air.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The only meager silver lining is that it has made for some powerfully compelling photos.

But documenting this tragedy is all I can do.  The fire is still burning, and it will likely continue to burn until the autumn rains return.  Beautiful trails are being ravaged.  And all I can do is wait for it to stop.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I hike there every summer.  I take visitors out there whenever they’re in town.  Aaron and I got married there.  That historic highway was one of the things that made me first fall in love with the Pacific Northwest.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

And it is forever changed.

I can’t ignore it when I’m surrounded by thousands who are likewise mourning this loss.  I can’t shrug it off with, “I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.”  This literally hits home.  And I am utterly heartbroken.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

But I also know that I’ll return.  New trees will sprout, and with enough time, it will be green again.  I’ll do whatever is in my power to restore the grandeur of that beautiful wilderness and ensure this playground is around for future generations.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

A news article quoted a spokesman from Portland Fire and Rescue saying, “The Gorge still looks like the Gorge; it’s not a wasteland.”  That’s heartening amidst this despair, and it’s exactly what I needed to hear.  I may feel somewhat helpless right now, but I’m not without hope that I’ll play there again.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

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Columbine Lake

I’m really excited to be starting in on this series.  My parents are moving away from their decades-long home in Colorado to spend their retirement in the Northwest, so we wanted one last chance to knock a few of our Rocky Mountain-ish bucket list items off our list.  My parents wanted in on the fun, so we planned a one-way road trip that would take us through Colorado, down to Mesa Verde, then up through Moab, and back to Oregon where they could scout out some neighborhoods.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016 Continue reading

Weekly Challenge: Mixed Shine

If I thought last week’s challenge was.. well.. challenging, this week’s really made me think hard about how to fit the topics.  The discover challenge is mixing media; the photo challenge is shine.  “Shine” is easy.  But I already write blog posts with lots of pictures – words and photos – so what could I do to mix it up?

I decided to do something I’ve never really done before: mixing photos. Continue reading

Hawaii: Mauna Kea

If you’re going to the Big Island, and if you have any fascination with the night sky, you won’t want to miss Mauna Kea.  Home to the world’s largest observatory and nearly 14,000 feet above sea level (and above most cloud layers), you won’t see more beautiful stars, especially if you live anywhere near a metropolitan area.  And for a photographer?  Just, wow. Continue reading

Photo of the Week: Supermoon Eclipse

I’ve noticed my posts tend to run a bit longer than I want or anticipate.  So, in an effort to mix it up and put more focus on the photography, I’m going to try adding something new: photo of the week!  This will highlight a picture I particularly like that week.  It most likely will have been taken in the past week, but I can’t always promise that.  In this case, it was 🙂

The world looked to the skies Sunday night for this spectacular celestial event, and I knew I wouldn’t miss it!  While it probably would have been better at some obscure campground with limited light pollution, I did the best I could with a Sunday evening.  I’m also learning that if I want to do more of this type of photography, it’s time for me to upgrade my telephoto.  Priorities!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015 Continue reading

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

New to Star Trails: Lessons Learned

In my last post, I talked about my introduction into astrophotography.  During the same trip, I attempted star trails – those beautiful concentric circles/arcs you see when turning your camera skyward and sucking up all possible light for minutes or even hours.

I’ve always been curious about star trails.  The fact is: given the chance, your camera can see more than human eyes.  This is why photos of the night sky look so surreal.  There’s no way that many stars are visible from our tiny little planet. Continue reading

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

My Journey into Astrophotography

One of the best parts about joining a local photography group is the opportunity to try new photography techniques never before explored.  I had one such opportunity recently: stars.

While I have seen some spectacular shots and have been mildly interested in trying it out, I could never bring myself to abandon wonderful, beautiful sunlight… and delve into the underworld of nighttime photography.  Low light has long been my bane, but I am working to improve my skills in this underdeveloped area.  Therefore, I welcomed the chance to work directly with other photographers who had done these types of shots before. Continue reading