The Open Road in Sepia

Hanging out on the tip of Washington in a place called “Dismal Nitch” might sound depressing.  However, according to the National Park Service, its name was derived from the journal of Capt. William Clark who referred to the site as a “Dismal Nitch” after being stuck there for 6 days in a storm waiting for supplies.  For the Lewis and Clark expedition, it was the last miserable stop on the Columbia River between them and the Pacific ocean.

For us, it was a beautiful, sunny day that gave us great views of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the Columbia River, and the mountains beyond.  However, having driven over the ridiculously long bridge, stopped at Dismal Nitch, watched the pelicans diving after fish, and watched the sun start to sink lower in the sky, we decided it was time to start heading back towards Portland.  We had one more stop in mind and we wanted to get there by dusk.

On the way back, I did some more “through the windows” shooting.  I’m fairly certain there is some law of photography that starts with, “Thou shalt not do landscape photography from a moving vehicle.”  Oh well, rules are made to be broken.

I know for sure there is some law of photography that says all photographers must at some point take a shot of themselves in a mirror.  I’ve resisted for a really long time.  But when I caught my reflection in the side-view mirror, my will power crumbled.  Like being drawn into a black hole, I felt compelled to press the shutter button.  Too bad I didn’t have try a slower shutter speed–it might have been interesting with the bridge blurred in the background.

Having captured some similar images of the bridge going the opposite direction, I found myself somewhat bored with today’s selection of photos.  I decided to change them all to the sepia preset.  I went a little wild with the orange tones in the first image–it evoked the idea of sunset for me.

The pairs of images are yet another semi-happy accident I wish I would have thought of when I was shooting because I would have shot them a little differently.  Maybe with the road going left and then right or something.

Regardless of what I might have shot differently or whether I shot something similar before, there is still something evocative to me about looking down the road.

What is it about an empty road that seems so prophetic?  My nomadic desires were suddenly reawakened by the sight.  The possibilities promised by going somewhere new seemed irresistible.  But on this day, the road didn’t lead to a place we hadn’t been before.  Just like life, sometimes we drive in circles.

Pelican Jarts

While birds are pretty darn fascinating to watch, there is no bird like a Brown Pelican for entertainment.  I don’t know what it is about watching their repetitive pattern of rising over the water, nearly hovering as they reposition their bodies for a dive, and their sudden transformation from giant seabird to giant feathered jart as they dive, leaving behind a splash that probably wouldn’t get them a gold medal if this were the Olympic diving competition.  But, I could watch them perform this dance between feast and famine over and over again.

On the Washington side of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which, if I were inclined to bet, I would bet is called “Megler,” we found a park where we could sit and watch the Brown Pelicans in their unique approach to dinner.  It’s amazing to me that such a large bird can so completely disappear under the water for several seconds after diving head first after a fish.  I feel certain the military could learn a lot from these birds.

The Brown Pelican is, in fact, the only pelican who dives from the air after its prey.  If I were a White Pelican and I watched the Brown Pelicans I shared my territory with snatching up fish from below the surface of the water this way, I would probably want to give it a try–it looks awfully fun.

Through the Glass

There is only one thing disappointing about the Astoria Megler Bridge:  there’s no place for pedestrians.  I guess it would be expensive to add a pedestrian walkway to a bridge that spans over 4 miles, but the views from the bridge stretch over the bay to the distant mountains in Washington and back to the South in Oregon.  Plus, the pelicans and gulls fly over the bridge at eye level.  It would be a great place to shoot.

I decided to try shooting through the windshield.  I have a lot of experience shooting through car windows–one of the sadder ironies in life is that wildlife tends to be more afraid of humans walking in the woods than of cars racing down a freeway, often to their own demise.  This leads to me trying to capture images of moose, elk, bears, etc through car windows more often than on foot.

On the positive side, I have learned a few tricks.  First and always applicable, get as close to the glass as possible.  This puts all the crap stuck to the glass completely out of focus so it doesn’t show up in the photos (the spots in the last image are actually birds that were flying too fast to be in focus).

Second, if you can’t roll down the windows and stick your head out, shoot through the front windshield if you’re shooting wide angle.  There is just nothing appealing about a composition that looks like this:

Third, if you’re shooting with a long lens, it’s easier to shoot out the side window, but watch for the blasted rearview mirror.  Shoot tighter, sit cross-legged to get up higher in your seat, roll down the window and prop the lens on top of the rearview mirror (not recommended in a rapidly moving vehicle).  Do something to get that mirror out of the frame.

Fourth, don’t forget about reflections.  If you have a polarizer, you might be able to get rid of them that way.  Unfortunately, sometimes you have to live with them (like in the first photo in the gallery).

Fifth, if you’re shooting though the windshield of a car going 50+ MPH down the road and you’re trying to get lots of depth of field, you can focus on whatever spot is in front of the car and then shoot, even though the spot you just focused on is gone by the time you push the button.

Finally, if you are shooting while the car is in motion (hopefully because someone else is driving it), remember that the speed your moving affects the shutter speed you want to use, depending on whether you want sharp or blurred images.  Oh! I just had a great idea for shooting the drive down the far side of the bridge (yes, I just smacked myself in the forehead since I am not planning to be back in Portland again for a year).

Bridge Over Troubled Water

On our trip to Portland oregon, we made a stop at Astoria, a town as on the corner of Oregon as it gets.  In fact, the 4 mile long Astoria Megler bridge crosses from The north-most, west-most corner of Oregon to Washington.

We planned to drive across the bridge, but decided to make a stop to see the under-side of the bridge before making the crossing.  To be honest, this was because we couldn’t figure out how to get onto the bridge and were circling around confused when we spotted a Naval memorial under the bridge.  We pulled off and checked out the nautical monument and coastal scene.

The nautical monument is like a miniature wall that captures the names of those who have died in service to the sea.  The roles of the people range from boat captains to daughters of boat captains.  It’s an interesting exercise to read the names of the people and what is described as their job. I wonder if it was difficult work to be a sea captain’s daughter?