Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year’s Eve Eve

With Christmas in the rearview mirror, it seems the next big thing on the minds of Astorians is whether or not the ships are going to sound off at midnight tomorrow night.

The silence last year was deafening.  I noted then that I was surprised at the reaction.  I knew I was disappointed, but then I’m weird that way, so I rather doubted that it made any difference to anyone else.

It did, and to a lot more people than I had expected. 

After hearing all of this after the fact, I wasn’t much surprised to find that someone else had done what I had intended to do earlier… asked Joanne Rideout to get involved. 

If you missed today’s edition of The Ship Report on KMUN, it will still be available at for a while, but the basic takeaway on the subject is that after talking to the bar pilots about the issue, they’ll be passing the word to inbound ships’ crews that a little letting off of steam (or compressed air, as the case really is) at midnight on New Year’s Eve is a welcome thing to those of us ashore.

No guarantees are offered, but the word is going out.

Joanne’s follow-on suggestion is a great one.  If you’re within earshot of the ships and have a line of sight to them at midnight, send some kind of light signal back to them!  Car headlights, house lights, whatever.  It would be a rare opportunity to have direct, if not that personal interaction with the crews on the river.

So, I’m passing the word.  I know that there are readers out there.  Statcounter tells me so.  Some of them are even from the Astoria area.  Pass the word yourselves if you like the foghorns, and send some sort of signal back to the crews on the ships.

At the moment there are only three ships showing in the anchorage, but that can change.  Last year there were five ships and a tug anchored, and another ship in transit at the turn of the year.  That would have made a nice chorus!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Calm at the River Pilot Dock

It was very foggy a couple of nights ago.

As is often the case, the fog came with an eerie calm.

December Fog

Once again, I don’t think I could have made this shot six weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twilight. No, not THAT Twilight!

I’m still getting accustomed to the capabilities of the new camera, especially when combined with the capabilities of Lightroom.


This was shot handheld, probably 30 minutes after sundown.  Very specifically: ISO 1600, 1/40th, f/4 @ 16mm.

Yeah? So? 

Well… six weeks ago, I would not have been able to make this image.  At all.  And if I’d have attempted it, the older version of Lightroom would have sniffed at the RAW images and only recognized them after having been pushed around a bit.

Now, it’s all easy.  And remarkably clean.  It’s not noise-free, and if the light were better, it would be sharper.  But not by a lot, and very probably not to the degree that the differences would be visible at web-resolution.

Back to the subject itself:  The Kiwi Trader has been in town for about 36 hours or so.  I’m always just a bit surprised at what looks like the leisurely pace of the loading operations at the new “log dock”.  But I’m almost heartened by that.   What I hope that means is that the crews and management are both looking out for the safety of all of the people involved.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Under the Gateway


I don’t know what the wind-chill was under the bridge, but I know I wasn’t dressed properly for it.  I did, however, have the pair of “glittens” that my Mom gave me a couple of years ago, and was very glad for them!  Even so, my fingertips were suffering for quite some time after getting out of the wind.

For those unfamiliar with the sight, this is the underside of the Astoria-Megler bridge, shot at 21:50 tonight.  I note the time specifically because I was surprised at the amount of light still shows up near the horizon when looking due north at this hour in December.

A77, ISO 100. 16-50mm zoom, 16mm.  90 seconds @ f/8.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011



Sunday morning, not long after dawn.  The white balance was off, but I liked it.  Something to contemplate over coffee.

A77 and 16-50mm f/2.8 zoom @ 24mm, 1/200 @ f/8.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fu Da at Twilight

I know… it looks like some other shots I’ve taken from a similar vantage point.  But, don’t a lot of them? 

If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t shoot it.


ISO 100, 8 seconds @ f/8, 105mm Sigma macro.  Large-radius contrast masking applied in Photoshop to open up shadow areas after Lightroom development.

The evening’s shoot started out as an academic exercise.  I was trying to figure out how best to use the long “G” zoom in difficult lighting. 

The solution, it seems, is to remove said lens and slap on the Sigma.

Problem solved!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I shot this on the day before Thanksgiving, but things got pretty hectic right after that, so I’m just getting around to posting it now.

Just another (yawn) shot from the front porch on yet another cloudy day, but I really liked the way the red deck paint popped out on this one, as well as the cloud/fog formations in the hills on the Washington side of the river.Majesty

A77 with 70-300mm G zoom @ 160mm.  1/500 @ f/5.6, ISO 200

Monday, November 21, 2011

Oh, Just Click On It!


This is a cross post from my other blog, which tends to be more general in topic.  This image seemed to fit both.

The image is a result of the (new) A77’s “sweep panorama” mode, Adobe’s Lightroom 3 post-processing and minor work in Photoshop CS4. 

Yeah, I’m still having fun with the new gear.

Shot at 16mm and 1/200 second, but past that, I can’t tell you a lot… the camera’s mode took over.  I think there were between 15 and 20 frames involved in the stitching, but I didn’t really try to count.  I was too busy panning with my finger on the shutter button.

The hard part (the panorama stitching) was accomplished in-camera in less than a second after the series was shot (on a Class-10 card… be prepared to wait with something slower), and the balance of the post-work was done in a couple of minutes in LR3 and CS4.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bumping Around in The Dark

After years of waiting, my new camera arrived yesterday.  I spent most of yesterday getting it set up for the way that I plan to use it and finally set out for some serious experimentation this evening.

Having a full moon rising as the sun slipped over the horizon was a very welcome coincidence.

From the Cannery Pier Hotel parking lot/pier. ISO 800. 70-300 “G” at 230 mm actual, 1/30 @ f/9.5.  Why that combo?  I don’t know except to say that I’m trying hard to learn to NOT accidentally change the settings by the control wheels.


I’m very pleased with this.  No messing around in post-processing except to remove a spot of flare from the moon.  The A100 just could not have handled this kind of dynamic range without significant post work.  I spent more time selecting the image than I did getting it prepped for the web.

ISO 100, 10 seconds @ f/5.6, 16-50 mm zoom at 22mm, tripod mounted. Developed in ACR, no crop.

Shimanami Queen

ISO 160, 4 seconds @ f/5.6, 16-50 mm zoom at 35mm (effectively a “normal” lens shot).  Developed in ACR, no crop.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Could There Be a “New Ship” Smell?

Maybe that’s what made me double back to the East Mooring Basin tonight to check out the gleaming Nantong K.  She was swinging on her anchor chain, pointing her bow right at me (and Calamity Jane, who got there a few minutes before me).

Nantong K, head on

I marveled at the nearly pristine paint on this hull.  It really was amazing.  There was only one set of chain marks across the bullnose!  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such an unmarked hull before.  A detail shot (click to see the larger version):

Nantong K bow scratches

When I got home, I did some searching.  So much of what I saw made me think that this was more than just a fresh paint job.  The hull plates aren’t buckled, the anchor chain still shows new paint on the links, none of the railings are bent… basically, it looked nearly virginal.

I found this.  Yes, she is about as new as we’re ever likely to see, having been delivered on July 21, 2011 from Kawasaki Heavy Industries.  Is this her maiden voyage after completion of fitting out?  I don’t know that.  But it’s probably only her second or third voyage at most, as not enough time has passed since her delivery to make more transits than that.

Nantong K Astoria

Having inadvertently followed the end of the Sammi Crystal’s career, it’s interesting to stumble upon the beginning of a new Handy-size carrier’s lifespan.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Oddity

I popped over the crest of 15th this afternoon to see beautiful shades of sunlit green on the Washington shore and (huh?) a splash of haze gray in the shipping channel.

That particular shade of gray in this river means one of two things: a USN  or an MSC (Military Sealift Command) vessel.  Or perhaps a commercial shipping line wants to make itself a target of international terrorists and I haven’t heard about it yet.  It’s possible, but unlikely.

Since the Rose Festival fleet headed out to sea weeks ago and the silhouette is a bit full, I assume it’s MSC.  The Shipfinder app gives me the name of the vessel, and the stripes on the stack give the rest away.  It’s the SS Cape Intrepid.

Cape Intrepid

I made the larger version a little bigger (double-click on the image) than normal because she’s so unusual.  A single crane mounted forward, a bunch of who-knows-what stacks mounted amidships, and a “launch ramp” that Evel Kneivel would lust after just ahead of the house.  And then there’s the house itself, mounted well forward of typical positioning.  Followed up with the ro-ro ramp at the fantail. 

This is truly a horse designed by committee, but it seems to me that they didn’t screw it up altogether.  It’s still a nice-looking ship!  It just has parts of a break-bulk tramp, a car carrier and something else entirely built onto it.  And it’s got a really nice, rakish bow.

So, she’s no thoroughbred, but she’s not a camel, either. 

I looked around online for some history.

She started life in 1976 as a Lykes vehicle carrier.  Really?  That was pretty good looking as car carriers go. Then became the Arizona (wonder if the crew said extra prayers nightly?), then the Jupiter, and finally the Cape Intrepid.

I’ve seen some photos from other phases of her service, and she’s changed a bit. 

Her mission these days is said to be to support a Marine Amphibious Brigade.  Makes some sense, given her configuration, but something tells me that she wouldn’t be at the point of the spear.  That ramp requires a dock.

Cape Intrepid Aft View

The Arrow 2 was heading out to intercept another outbound ship and I happened to catch a view of the Cape Intrepid’s stern.  Not the prettiest hull in the harbor, but she looks like she’s up to the job.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Odd Cargo

I’d barely hit the causeway to the Youngs Bay bridge on the way home this afternoon when my head snapped to the left.

“What the hell is that?”

On a large barge between two tugs was what looked like a Lego representation of a roast turkey, rendered with blue, white and yellow bricks.

And it was HUGE.  As in seven stories above the weather deck of the barge!  And that’s not including the drumsticks.


So, around the roundabout I went and headed for the viewpoint at Carruthers Park between Warrenton and Hammond.

Two other observers happened along during the passage, both asking if I knew if it was “the” oil rig headed for Alaska.  I haven’t heard anything about a drilling rig being constructed in Portland, and I’m no more in the know than any other KMUN listener, but I could tell from my ship-finder app that the next stop for this monstrosity would be Vancouver, BC.

It doesn’t look like the oil rigs that I’m familiar with, but that’s a limited sample.  Maybe it is.  And perhaps Vancouver is just a waystop, and the guesses are correct.

The whole assembly as it passed Hammond:


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Under the Rainbow


From the catwalk at Baked Alaska, downtown Astoria, 3/25

ISO 100, 1/30 second at f/8, handheld. 70-300mm G @ 70mm

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Last Frame of the Day

The last few days have seen a mix of everything except actual snow and accumulated ice.  We did have a significant buildup of hail on several occasions, though.

We’ve even had some sun, though as the afternoon waned today I thought that was over and done. 

Still, there was an interesting assortment of ships in the anchorage, so I detoured to the East Mooring Basin on my commute home.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the light brightening in the western sky as I made my way out to the breakwater.

But it was fickle and short-lived.  The wind rose and fell.  Half-hearted showers came and went.  The pieces just didn’t fall together in any kind of visual harmony.

I didn’t have a lot of enthusiasm for the shots I’d made, but when I looked at them on the monitor, the last shot of the evening stood out.February Sunset

It’s arguable that “you had to be there.”  But, the river’s surface flattened out, the sun brightened a part of the sky and the Pacific Fantasy and created a fine degree of contrast for the bridge and the tree line in Warrenton, six miles or more away.

The next wave of rain and hail moved in within minutes.

ISO 200, 1/200 @ f/5.6, 70-300 “G” Zoom at 160mm.  Handheld, no crop.

This really is best viewed in the larger version (click on the image).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Really, Really Up Close and Personal

Take a close look at these captures…Combined-Screenshots

Note that they’re taken 22 minutes apart. Now, keep in mind that the Namrun is at anchor as these were taken, and had been for several days.  In 22 minutes, she and her anchor and chain had been dragged a couple hundred yards.  At one point, her stern was probably less than 80 feet from the outer wall of the East Mooring Basin’s breakwater.

For some time, I’ve wondered if the tracks shown by the ShipTracker app were really accurate or were subject to the “civilian drift” that I’ve been told about… a built-in lack of absolute precision in GPS systems intended for civilian (as opposed to military) use.  Well, now I know that it’s pretty darned close to being dead-on, since I was on the breakwater the whole time.

I never took the kit zoom off the camera this evening.  I didn’t need any more telephoto reach, but I was close to needing more wide-angle angle of view.  This ship was CLOSE!

Almost Close Enough To Touch

I included the seawall in the frame to give some sense of the proximity of the ship.  I’ve never seen one drift this close to the seawall.

Rudder Detail

At first I thought the ship had snagged a crab pot, but these floats are intentionally attached.  I don’t know their purpose.  I haven’t seen anything like them before.

Arrow 2 Closes In

Barely enough room

Crew taking pictures

Some crew members taking pictures of people taking pictures.  No crop here.  70mm was all that was needed.

Starting to swing away

Shot as wide as I could make it… 18mm.

Heading Back

The Arrow 2 speeds back, this time to drop a river pilot off… the ship was underway within a half hour.

Prior to the arrival of the pilot, however, the ship was dragging itself away from the seawall with its anchor winch.  I could hear the chain links coming through the hawsepipe, but couldn’t see it taking place as the bulk of the ship was blocking the view.

All in all, a pretty interesting hour out there.

Really, I Was Being Productive…

But technology (an automatic dryer) kept me hands-off until it was done with the load.

So I went to Coffee Girl and ordered a mocha.  And watched the fog swirl.


It was definitely a day that would have been ideal to set the camera on a tripod and a timer and shoot a few hundred images a second apart… watching the ebb and flow of fog would have been fascinating.

But I had neither the time or the right equipment, so I had to settle for a few stills before going home and folding clothes.

ISO 100, 1/160th @ f/8, 70-300 zoom at 230mm.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Photoshop is making me crazy. 

More accurately, I’m making myself crazy with Photoshop. 

The image in the previous post is not what I want it to be.  It was really beyond my camera’s capabilities to get it entirely right in a single shot, so I knew I’d have to fall back on post-processing to try to get it back to what I saw.  I’m on the sixth version now and still haven’t got it right.

So, I’m retreating for the moment.

I scrolled back a few shots and found one in the same series that looked pretty much as I’d intended it to right out of the camera.

Yes, the river really was that smooth.

January Calm

Slightly straightened and cropped to fit, no other alterations. ISO 100, 1 second at f/8 (on tripod), 105mm Sigma macro.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Ornak Leaves Town. Finally.

This ship has been a constant companion in my neighborhood since mid-month.  It hasn’t been the longest stay in the anchorage that I’ve ever seen, but it’s right up there. 

It’s kind of hard to miss, what with the huge “POLSTEAM” lettering that’s visible even through a lot of fog.

With the river as still as it was this afternoon and evening, I couldn’t resist a walk out to the far side of the Alderbrook lagoon with tripod and full bag in tow.

I had no idea that I’d be catching the Ornak in its last few hours of its very long stay here.  I didn’t see it leave.  I just noticed about a half an hour ago that it was no longer in view.

Ornak at twilight

Sigma 105mm @ f/8, 1/2 second, ISO 100 (tripod mounted)

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Stars (or Moon, at least) Align At Last

I’ve been wanting to photograph the Peacock at night since she first got lit up on her new perch, but between abysmal weather and (I think) a very unfortunate holiday decoration lashed to her mast, I haven’t had an opportunity.

The poor Christmas tree has been removed.  By the end of its term, the thing was slumped over, clearly exhausted from being subjected to the gales.  I don’t know for sure, but I always thought that being lashed to the top of the mainmast of any vessel must be some sort of torture.  That poor tree sure looked like it had had enough.

I don’t doubt that the intent was good, but the execution and effect were lacking.

I digress. 

The weather cooperated on several levels this evening, with a sliver of moon showing and the rain abating at exactly the time that I could free myself up to shoot.  I made an image that was exposed properly for the moon itself, thinking that I would make a composite later, but this is (aside from some color correction) just what the sensor picked up for the exposure of the boat.


Kit lens at 28mm, ISO 100, 30 seconds at f/8.  “Light-painted” with a small MagLite in the shadow areas, but I don’t think it made much difference.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Four for Four

I’m tempting fate. 

For many years running, I’ve had it in my mind to make one image that “made a damn” per day for a calendar year.

Maybe not for you, but but for me. 

I was three for three.  I might post the others later, but the thing is that they mattered to me.

Today, as the light faded, I was feeling sunk as I got home, as both cameras had remained sequestered all day.  It was late, and I was tired, and I still had work to do.

But, just across the street, a vista opened up and needed to be explored.

Cielo de Vancouver

I had to walk across the street and a few doors west to capture this, but it’s by no means a far cry from what I’d see from my living room on a lucky night. 

This is an 8 second exposure at f/8, ISO 200 with the Sigma 105mm macro.  Other than a less than 1 degree straightening and some highlight recovery, this is what the sensor saw without manipulation.

Feel free to click on the image to take in the details.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Did we do something wrong?

I doubt that there’s anything written down about this, but the unspoken tradition in these parts is that ships in the anchorage and occupied boats in the basins SOUND OFF at midnight as the year flips over.

So, what the hell didn’t happen last night?

It’s not like there weren’t any ships in the anchorage:


I snapped this on my iPhone at the turn of the hour, expecting the typical echoes and moans of foghorns up and down the river.  And I heard nothing.  Too cold for crickets… just nothing.

I thought that perhaps I was the only one missing the serenade, and so I enjoyed the star-show above (not a cloud to be seen) before retreating from the cold.

This morning, however, it was made clear that the midnight silence was noted by a LOT of people.  I had to go to Safeway to pick up a few things, and the snoozing of the horn section was definitely a hot topic in every checkout lane.

“We muted the TV and opened the windows and … nothing!”

“It was the first time in all the years I’ve lived here…”

“Did they get some sort of notice that they couldn’t?”

“I’ve NEVER not heard the foghorns!”

So, what the hell went on here?  An anchorage full of ships, and all with the MUTE button on at midnight as the year rolls over.  It was a beautiful night with huge potential, and even the Fir was in port (slightly to the right of the edge of this frame) and nobody made a peep. 

What, kids?  Cat got your tongue?  That really sucked!