Archives » July 30th, 2004

July 30, 2004

I’m back

Yes, I’ve been back for a few days and yes, I’ve been procrastinating on doing anything with the site. Pesky thing about having a baby; family is suddenly more important than computers. Go figure.

Our trip was very bittersweet. For one, we love the Seattle area, so getting to go up there, do all the tourist things, even getting to leave the house for a week, was all very thrilling. But the problem was that we brought our Nevada climate with us when we went. I didn’t think something like climate could be packed into the trunk of the car, but somehow we pulled it off. So that’s how we ended up visiting Seattle during their record-breaking heat wave last week. High temperature records were shattered all over Puget Sound, there wasn’t a cloud in sight, and Seattle hit 90 degrees for the first time all year. And of course this all happens while we’re up there with the express purpose of escaping the heat! Maybe we didn’t have as bad a time with it as the regular residents; temps regularly flirt with the three-digit range here along the Sierra Crest. It’s nothing new for us. So we can take it, but we don’t like it. And a vacation is supposed to let you get away from the things about home you don’t like, not give you more of the same.

Anyway, we ended up taking about 2,200 pictures on the trip. Now there’s a sign of the times for you. Just try to imagine if, fifteen years ago, somebody told you they went on a one-week vacation and took over 2,000 pictures. You’d think they were nuts. For one, the processing costs on a hundred rolls of film would put anyone in the poor house. And then where do you keep them all, how do you look at them, how many albums do you need to buy and how much shelf space would they take up? It would be madness. But now that we’re living in the future, my camera can take nearly 300 pictures at once. Spend ten minutes downloading them into the laptop, and you’ve got a blank slate for 300 more. It’s unthinkable. But it’s the greatest thing ever. I remember the bad old days of film. You’d spend an entire day at this great location, but you had to ration your film. For budgetary reasons, you’d allow yourself two, maybe three rolls of film. That worked out to about 50~75 pictures. So as you went through your day, every sight you saw, you had to decide if it was important enough to use your precious film on. You had to carefully line up your shots. And above all, you had to make sure you didn’t screw up the shot. Children and animals were especially stressful, since they can do anything in those few milliseconds it take to activate the shutter. So you ended up with a lot of “good enough” shots, and there were many things you just couldn’t take a picture of, since you were running out of film. So many good shots were never taken and lost forever.

But now you don’t have to worry about any of that. Once you’ve bought the camera, budget is no concern. You still have to ration your pictures (and batteries!), but 300 pictures gives you a lot more leeway than 50. So, as you go through your day, you’re able to take those shots that you used to miss. You’re able to experiment, to try several ways of taking one picture, to shoot through a glass window from five different angles to see which one has the least amount of glare. And you’re able to delete pictures. That might be one of the greatest advances. With film, if you took a bad shot, it was permanent. Unless it was pure black, it got developed anyway. And then you either had to toss it and waste your money, or keep it around, suffer the embarassment, and waste your money. Now you press a few buttons, and bingo. The picture is gone, no one ever has to know you screwed up, and it doesn’t count against your quota for the day. Brilliant.

Yes, two thousand pictures might sound like a lot. But when you’re given that much freedom, it’s hard to hold back. And that number is spread out over 11 days, so it’s not like I have 400 pictures of the Space Needle. I was able to capture just about every facet of our vacation, instead of having to focus on the highlights. Sure the highlights are there, and sure I took plenty of photographs of them. But I was also able to capture the smaller moments, the ones that used to be overlooked and forgotten. I could take a picture out the window every hour to mark our progress along the freeway. I could take twenty pictures of the river otters, trying to get just the perfect shot as they swam back and forth. I could take a random picture of the city with Mount Rainier faintly towering in the background. I could take a picture of the baby staring overboard on his first ferry ride, and capture the wonder on his face as so many new things passed before his eyes. With a digital camera you are able to preserve so much more of your vacation, and I don’t know how we ever got along without them.

Well, that was an unexpected little digression. I really just wanted to say that I took a bunch of pictures, and if I ever get the time you’ll be seeing some of them on this site. A bunch of them have already shown up on Sammy’s site, and I’ll probably keep running more there even though the vacation is over. Stay tuned!

Waterfall Fire

Update about the fire. It was named the Waterfall Fire after a tiny little creek that runs through the hills where it started. A total of 18 homes were burned, mostly ones nestled in the dry forest at the fringe of town. The firefighters were able to hold it at bay along the edge of town, but it ran wild up in the mountains. Over 8,000 acres were burned before it was finally extinguished and the hills, all the way from the north end of town to the south, are now charred black. This fire is going to leave its scar for a long time to come.

But there was a town to come back to. So that’s something. That’s thanks to the firefighters that were out there for days on end, over a thousand of them, more concerned with keeping the flames away from town than with completely surrounding them. Save the houses first, and then when it scurries up into the mountains you can work on stomping it out. And that’s what they did. The efforts of their work are visible now that the smoke has cleared.

Parts of the Lakeview neighborhood are literally in the forest. The houses are surrounded by trees. You can see the black scar where the fire came down the hill, and there’s a distinct line where it stops. Not a single house was lost in Lakeview.

The Timberline neighborhood wasn’t so fortunate; several houses were lost there. But dozens of others were saved. Timberline is also in the forest, up the hill a ways. It used to be well camoflauged against the mountain backdrop, but now it stands out; an island of green perched in the center of a sea of black. That image, more than any other, is a testament to the skill of the firefighters.