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Thursday, August 16, 2018


They say Native Americans carved petroglyphs at the base of Willamette Falls, an ancient fishing site. I’ve paddled up to the falls a couple of times to find the old markings, but always seem to miss them. The massive horseshoe-shaped falls are over a quarter mile wide and are blended in with concrete and steel industrial structures that make its natural configuration something of a puzzle.

I figured a fresh set of eyes would improve my chances of finding the petroglyphs, so I invited Karen, who had previously expressed an interest in learning to kayak. Karen and I are part of the same extended church family, but more like cousins who almost never visit each other. In the past, she has tried to kill me with a heavy piñata stick and also a spring roll (the spring roll wasn't really her fault). Having Karen along makes even the most pedestrian outing more like a life and death adventure — at least for me.

Smoke, presumably from California’s wildfires, interfered with the dawn and colored the landscape and everything in it with a hellish red tinge.

We launched from behind an R.V. park, leaving our vehicles on the beach.

clicking on the photo should result in the display of a larger image, the same one, just larger
The falls are visible from high atop the bluffs of Oregon City or the I-205 overlook, but to get to the base of the falls requires a boat (or bolt cutters) (or a particular set of skills).

Nope. No petroglyphs here.

I try to imagine what the falls looked like before we bent them to our will.

Noting the artificial structures rimming the top of the falls, I wonder if this is really a waterfall or a dam. 

The height of the falls is listed at 40 feet. I don’t think that includes the concrete structures above the falls. Scampering among the boulders at the base of the falls, it is unsettling to remember what this place looks like when the river is near flood stage.

The concrete structures inundated in the tumult above are the same concrete structures at the top of the falls pictured in the previous picture. This is the view from the Oregon City bluffs during a high-water event in January of 2012.

Karen secures her kayak, spontaneously fitting available equipment to nature’s proffered landscape. 

We look everywhere, but can’t seem to find the elusive petroglyphs.

So is it just me, or, painted on the spider’s abdomen, is there a picture of Osama Bin Laden sitting in a chair, facing the viewer with legs all akimbo?

Big industrial parts, complexly designed, intended to spin, possibly refractory,  and abrasive in nature.

I thought it was just a pretty flower — like maybe a morning glory, but Karen called it bindweed, an invasive monster that chokes out native species. Then I was able to trace its red tendrils spreading through the grass and shrubs like a cargo net.

The back end of a turbine system?

Purple loosestrife, another invasive species, brings my invasive species count up to two. Then I glance at the rusting industrial facilities perched on the river banks and add a third species.

The Oregon City Bridge

At the end of the adventure, sharing a picnic lunch with yellow-jackets, I thought this one’s face looked familiar. 

Zanti misfit courtesy of The Outer Limits.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


What do you call it when you mix a digital camera with a spotting scope?

The answer is digiscoping.

Taking quality pictures from far away requires expensive lenses, lenses worth thousands of dollars.

I can’t afford them.

But Mr. P already has a legacy spotting scope and he had heard that there were adapters available to connect it to a digital camera. The question became, would digiscoping be a viable option until such a time as purchasing an $8,000 telephoto lens would be deemed justifiable? And more to the point, would it be fun?

Right now, the longest lens I have access to is a third-party 70 - 300 mm, F/4 - 5.6 zoom. When combined with my camera sensor's crop factor of 1.6, it becomes equivalent to a 112 - 480 mm zoom. But if I could hook my camera up to Mr. P’s spotting scope, I theoretically should be able to achieve a focal length equivalent to 2,700  mm

It took some research and eventually some help from Kowa experts Mr. Paul Kardos (National Sales Account Manager) and Mr. Robert Wilton to identify the necessary components to connect my particular camera to the TSN-822 scope, but eventually, I had pieces that fit together. Even so, it took more input form Kowa US Brand Ambassador Robert Wilson to help me understand that digiscoping isn’t a magic solution and that a 2,700 mm focal length requires a certain technical expertise to yield sharp results.

Essentially, with the camera body hooked onto the scope, I’ve created a 2-foot teeter-totter that readily rocks on top of the tripod at the drop of a shutter. Worse, the attachment point on the scope (red arrow) is thrown off center which, though I’m no master at physics, makes me think vibrations are amplified at the long end. I enabled the mirror-lock mode for my camera and triggered the shutter using a remote. I also counterbalanced the scope so the tripod head stopped creeping up. Even so, the wind was an obvious variable leading to motion blur as well as available light and subject motion.

I wanted to capture the cormorants diving on the surface of the ocean. However, not only are the cormorants fast, they are sitting on a surface that is also moving up and down.


I set up my digiscoping rig on Fishing Rock. With the eyepiece set somewhere around 20x, I was able to obtain the image above — the mouth of Fogarty Creek.

At 60x I was able to see the observation area at Boiler Bay State Park (1.26 miles away as shown in the clip from Google Earth below)

At 480 mm, my third-party lens makes the moon this big in the frame.

Using the spotting scope at 20x, I get an image of the moon substantially bigger (but also significant color fringing)...

...and at 60x I get this, but at this magnification, the moon’s apparent motion is also making sharpness an obvious issue. So, while the equipment holds promise, I still have refinements to make with the gear and considerable practicing to do.

Shedding the scope, I headed to Boiler Bay where I was sidetracked by the appearance of whales.

This is a shot looking back North to Fishing Rock, taken from the fence I had earlier seen through the digiscope rig. 

I mistakenly thought these were the pickle-like pyrosomes that had previously been in the news, but it turns out that this is probably squid eggs.

As the sun draws ever closer to the horizon, its oblique rays deign only to illuminate the top portions of the waves.

Meanwhile, the waves force a substantial school of small silver fish close to the shoreline. The seagulls quickly catch on.

...and begin playing a daring game of tag with the ocean in hopes of collecting the enticing morsels.

(Should I stay or should I go?)

The gulls and black and white duck-like things compete together for the fish windfall.

Early the next morning I walk the beach noting some kind of infant crab apocalypse.

And then content myself at a vantage point with the seagulls to watch their feeding behaviors.

This morning, they seem to be arranged in a pecking order, taking turns standing on an ideally situated rock at the surf line where they snag fish that are left in compromised positions in ebbing waves.

The seagulls must brave the incoming waves to be in an optimal position to dive at the fish in the receding water.

They do not seem to be enthusiastic divers like the cormorants — but neither are they afraid to get wet.

Sometimes, even seagulls miscalculate.

The black and white duck-things blur the distinction between bird and fish.

And seals look on ominously, almost as if they’d be willing to blur the distinction as well.

In February, the intertidal zones are evidently affected by the input of copious amounts of precipitation and cloudy skies.

In the harsher summertime, the range of lush tidepools appears to contract as evaporation causes established algae to crystalize.

Wonders and mysteries present themselves whether I'm looking up or down, close or far away. The few moments I spend at the beach remind me that we all once had to be keenly aware of the patterns of the seasons and be fit to chase after our food wherever it appeared. Perhaps my attempts to capture small-mouthed bass from my kayak are like spasming frog legs in a frying pan — a neural vestige from those days when we were alive, and not hunting big bites at the 7-11 twenty-four hours a day. This post was just going to peter out after the last picture, but I thought I should try to tie it all up with some kind of thoughtful conclusion. But this is all I came up with. I guess what I really mean to say is photography — even primitive efforts at digiscoping — provides ways to extend my sight, to see things in ways that I wouldn't ordinarily see.

Totally worth it.

The Narrative Image NAVIGATION AID

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