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№ 75 Posts

Can I interest you in a mason jar and a dab of vaseline?

Spec Road, Joyce Quadrangle, March 2010

Man, photographers. Gear and more gear. Starting to hate it. The more low-fi my work gets, the paler the remorse of discredited craftsmanship, and yet the more fevered and trembling the distortions on the ground glass. And more crap just gets left at home. Whether from an over-indulgence of intolerance and spite, or an uneasy preference over the real resolution of things it’s not easy to say. As for the end result…well it’s almost like the quality is being sucked from my picture from the edges in while I look at it.

Where will it end… Maybe I’ll end up with a sack of roadside recycling instead of a camera bag, an itinerant tinker, clinking through the landscape in a contrapuntal din of glassware and glib ravings, developing all my pictures in a constant trickle of incontinence. Better than having your work be defined by the equipment you own I suppose.

Step back sonny, and let the paying customers through!

An immovable force

Switchback trail, Lower Elwha, February 2010

The Elwha River Valley has been undergoing some changes. The lower bridge has been demolished and rebuilt, and the lower and upper dams are scheduled for removal.  In the planning stages since 2000 or so, now they’re getting fastracked with the extra $54  million or so of stimulus money for the $308 million (estimated) project.    The reasons for the de-reclamation are myriad, but mainly this:  the salmon runs that once numbered roughly 400,000 adult returns in 70 miles  of available habitat at the turn of the last century now number less than 3,000 adult returns in under 5  miles of available habitat.

The dam was built under the direction of Thomas Aldwell, who had  previously bought up most of the  land around the river. With the help of Canadian financier  George Glines began construction of the Elwha Dam in 1910.  Aldwell build the dam on the cheap, not building fish passages and also deciding not secure it to the bedrock. On Halloween 1912 the foundation of the dam failed. The dam had been bedded on a deep gravel deposit and water pressure overwhelmed the the foundation, the resulting torrent destroying property and displacing yet again an often-imposed-upon settlement of the Elwha (Klallam) tribe. Various methods of repair were attempted but it was finally decided to fill the hole with debris and seal the fill with a poultice made of fir boughs and limbings weighted in place with dirt and rock. Later a layer of gunnite was poured on top of the fill. What resulted, and what still exists today, is a jimmyrigged assembly of trees, rocks, dirt and concrete held in place by gravity and the original concrete structure which bridges the blowout.

Although state law required fish ladders at the time the dam was built,  Aldwell sidestepped  the regulation by building a hatchery instead. The hatchery was short-lived, closing in 1922 after only a few years. (Another hatchery did open up much later, but under the auspices of the WDFW. ) The dam is keeping salmon from a combined 70 miles  of mainstem and tributary habitat.  At its peak, the Elwha once supported spawning runs of Chinook, Coho, Chum, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon as well as Steelhead, Cutthroat, and Bull Trout. Sockeye, Chinook, Chum, and Pink Salmon are all currently thought to be extinct or close to extinction on this run.

Despite the spectacularly disastrous and compunctionless supervision of Aldwell, the lake behind the lower dam was named for him anyway, most likely by himself personally.  But this too will soon pass.

While you were sleeping

Westbound Road, Joyce Quadrangle, February 2010

I took several months off to reboot. Not sure if I’m back in the swing of it so much as just temporarily re-engaged. One of my favorite dawn strolls has been…what’s a good word here? Destroyed? That really has too much finality to it. Re-purposed is a ghastly word but it suits, at least for the moment.


Rosario Strait, October 2009

My father was the keeper of the Eddystone light
And he slept with a mermaid one fine night
Out of this union there came three
A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me!
Yo ho ho, the wind blows free,
Oh for the life on the rolling sea!

One night, as I was a-trimming the glim
Singing a verse from the evening hymn
I head a voice cry out an “Ahoy!”
And there was my mother, sitting on a buoy.
Yo ho ho, the wind blows free,
Oh for the life on the rolling sea!
“Oh, what has become of my children three?”
My mother then inquired of me.
One’s on exhibit as a talking fish
The other was served in a chafing dish.
Yo ho ho, the wind blows free,
Oh for the life on the rolling sea!

Then the phosphorus flashed in her seaweed hair.
I looked again, and my mother wasn’t there
But her voice came angrily out of the night
“To Hell with the keeper of the Eddystone Light!”
Yo ho ho, the wind blows free,
Oh for the life on the rolling sea!


Seconds before the snow

Silver Fir woods, Joyce Quadrangle, December 2009

I love walking in the woods right before a snow fall. It kept threatening and not quite snowing and prolonging the anticipation. So much the better- it didn’t stick anyway.

Cold snap


Roadwork, Highway 112, December 2009

Brrr. I discovered keeping my gloves warm in my pants while I’m taking a picture. Good to 18 degrees F, but a little awkward if you get stuck with your arms in your pants up to the elbows trying to retrieve them.



Roadwork, Highway 112, December 2009

Some recent roadwork on 112 between Joyce and Clallam Bay, WA. The landscape cloth they use to control drainage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca makes the whole construction zone look like a giant Christo installation.

My antique weekend

Forest, Kalaloch, November 2009

A windstorm knocked power out here for 4 days so I spent much of the time out at Kalaloch.  Not very productively, seeing as the wind and rain was still knocking the coast around quite a bit.  Busywork or maybe just something to do with confronting your tormentor. Loosing, and getting soaked in the bargain. ‘Maybe tomorrow the power will come back on.’ Repeat.

Getting back home there is nothing it that dark to suggest even the invention of the wheel. Knuckling darkness, mind bending. As often as the power goes out here, I don’t know why I haven’t gotten a generator yet. The trips out to the coast helped to counterbalance the long dark nights a little, the animations of the storm and surf repaying the effort even at five am getting up freezing to make a fire outside, as if looking to finish some elemental thought.

Sunday night I had three trips festering in the exposure boxes and just couldn’t wait anymore. I decided to play frontiersman and develop some film. The water comes out of my tap at 5 C, so it was interesting heating up quantities of water on a camp stove and then trying to keep the solutions in the 20 C range. But the difficult part was keeping time in the dark. Counting 10 minutes off second by second is a direct route to sensory abandon, even minor hallucination, like repeating the same word over and over again until it sounds completely alien.

But the negatives turned out well, for what they are, and figured no great loss if they were ruined. But then again, I’m never sure how much I have at stake until the damage is done.

Where’s the john around here anyway?

Beach 4, Kalaloch, November 2009

I’ve been struggling with this project, or at least this current incarnation of it. No matter how much I enjoy being at the coast, it’s not satisfying the way it once was, and I can feel a progressively thinner-veiled scoffing at my own work with each new post I make. Like some gaunt chainsmoking Art-hag is sitting atop a shoulder and offering withering opinions on everything I do. The polite version is Pretty, but not terribly interesting. I need to re-engage my interest; or rather to look much deeper for it, in places I never considered before.

Eudora Welty bemoaned something she called the Isle of Capri novel- those detective or romance novels with   idyllic if wildly superficial settings where it is always elegant and balmy and there are no alleys or restrooms (to paraphrase). I don’t know if restrooms are what my project is missing but I do know that my world lately is all front and no back; and as such I haven’t really provided a full or fair picture of these places at all. Which kinda sucks, frankly.