A day trip to Sheep mountain

Sheep Mountain 554 On Monday, Ron Horn and I went up to Sheep mountain to take pictures of the sheep. We were on the road by 6:40 AM and were up at the border by 7:30 and were scoping the mountain for sheep amongst the snow at 10:30 AM. We took his car and he drove all the way-so I just had to keep him a wake and keep an eye out for wildlife.

I like going shooting with Ron for a number of reasons: he’s got great photo gear, he knows a lot about photo stuff, he’s smart, he loves a good story, and has a lot of stories and experience he likes to share from all branches of life.  Of course we share photo stories of all sorts.

He just got back from Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean, the site of the famous battle during WWII which was the turning point of the Pacific theater. Lots of cool stories and interesting folks there.

709 Sheep Mountain

At first we thought we’d have a tough time of it, because all the sheep we spied were high up resting in the sun.  Then Ron spotted this one who wasn’t near as shy.

Sheep Mountain 504

All-in-all I counted 34 of them, so there were probably around 40, counting the ones I did not see. The seem to be browsing on the gravel, but were probably eating lichens and mosses.

Sheep Mountain 579

We also saw this fox along the way, just on the other side of Haines Junction. At first he didn’t seem shy at all, but then when I got out of the car, he thought better of it.

1270 Sheep Mountain

Of course there were the usual sights of snow removal and such as we came over the pass which while it may not interest locals much, as it’s a common spectacle in these parts, I think it’s amazing that a machine can throw hundreds of pounds snow per minute so far. when we actually got abreast of the blower, he turned off the blades and let us pass in peace.

Sheep Mountain 653

Sheep Mountain 607 Here’s picture of Ron’s car when he went ahead to get the gear while I stayed at the base of the mountain with all the photo gear. I include this shot just to give you an idea of the mountains immediately adjacent to Sheep Mountain and the condition of the road.  If you compare the snow covered mountain in the background with the one the sheep are on in the photos, you can see that the one that the sheep select to spend the spring-time months on is nearly clear of all snow, while the surrounding mountains are almost completely covered in snow this time of year.

I also point out that Ron has the perfect car for out-door photo trips in Alaska—a very modern Toyota 4WD 4 cylinder SUV. The temperature was probably around 22-25 degrees F.

We were back in Haines by 3:40 PM.

Christmas 2009

Here are some cool Northern Lights we saw yesterday in the early morning looking off to the north.

Christmas 2009 005

Christmas 2009 019I’m kidding.  This was 2.5 second exposure taken handheld at ISO 3200, wide open of Mark Daniel swinging his glow in the dark wrist bands around energetically to the beat of a Boy Named Sue.

It snowed about 14-18 inches on Christmas Eve, so we had a mess to dig out of in the morning before we could go and get Bob and Margaret for the Christmas morning festivities.  The boys all chipped in and dug with their new shovels and Holly seemed to enjoy doing an Alaskan Woman thing as well.

Christmas 2009 139

Holly’s Birthday party was on Christmas evening and we had a nice visit with the family and Bob & Margaret with Margaret’s home made lemon cake with real whipping cream.

Christmas 2009 022Holly’s big gift for her Birthday was an Aero Garden from Amazon which is assembled and percolating away in the living room with herbs (Parsley, Mint, Italian Basil, Dill, Purple Basil, Chives, and Thyme)  hopefully sprouting this week.

Christmas 2009 141 Also, I got a large griddle (10”x20”) for cooking pancakes for $44 at the Canadian SuperStore.  It works fine, it turns out, but is a little bit of a pain to clean if you don’t rinse it right away—which is, I suppose, the same as any other cooking or preparation devices. It’s also a bit of a pain to store, as there are no holes in the handles to hang the thing from. I’d always thought these would be great for cooking pancakes or french toast, and just bought one on the spur of the moment. 

Christmas 2009 127

Christmas 2009 138One of Holly’s ideas for the Holidays was to spread the gifts out over 12 days, since we’re not planning any big trips.  This morning, the boys got their Nerf guns with a brief safety demonstration and strict instructions on where they could be aimed (not at mommy, not at a face). 


But later one of the boys shot the other one in the eye from 3” and lost his gun privileges and got a few swats. Thankfully, no harm was done to John Caleb’s eye.  Although I do feel a bit bad about the spankings. They seem to always do more harm than good.

New Steps!

In Alaska, in the winter, footing can be very treacherous.  Especially in SE Alaska.  i grew up in Barrow, and it’s really not that slippery there for most of the year.  In the fall when the snow comes, we skip right past 32 degrees F and go right on down to the sub zero temperatures.  Since it’s rarely near the freezing point of water, it is rarely slippery.

In Haines, it can be right near freezing for a good portion of the winter, which makes for some slippery footing for a good portion of the year wherever there is any slope at all.  If you’re at all familiar with Haines, You know there is not much flat ground to be had in the Chilkat Valley.

IMG_6549Holly and I got to thinking about or driveway and how difficult it is to get from the car to the house and we decided it would be better to spend some money on a safe way to get into the house than to risk accident and injury later on in the winter.  So we called up Coleman Stanford and asked him to build us some steps. 

We told him we really liked the landing style steps that Randy Miner built so he built us some similar steps to go up to our house from the lower drive-way and also from the upper driveway.

We really like how they turned out.  They are just like we wanted, and the finishing on the concrete is first rate.  I’m convinced that the steps are going to be very safe for many years to come.

In the photo above, you can’t really tell that the upper steps are landing style, large steps, the last step which ends at the driveway is a standard step.  In the photo below, I think you can see that the stairs are pretty gradually sloped.  The only thing to add still is the railing at the bottom of the steps plus a light-pole at the bottom with a 3-way switch.  The steps are beautiful to walk down.


We had stairs and a sidewalk before, but we rarely walked on the sidewalk, we always went down where these stairs no go.  We still need to get the extra dirt hauled away, as you can see in the photo above.


Also today, we did the picture day retakes for the school, plus retakes for the community photos, I replaced the toilet seat which had a broken hinge, and I cleared the brush out to the shed so we can get some electrical service installed out there for lights and the occasional power (battery charger) need.

More Senior Photos 2009: Jackie Moody + the engine is in place!

We finished up shooting Jackie’s Photos yesterday.

It was a hugely busy day.  At 8 AM, I had went to the school to take some photo books to my classroom for the photography class I’m teaching this fall and ‘threw my back out.’  I know that’s a strange expression, ‘threw my back out,’ but what it means is my back is really hurting if I try to do anything and I can barely move around.

So I started uploading the photos for the wedding and the senior shoot. 

IMG_8889 copyIMG_8865 copyAt 1 PM, we started shooting these senior shots of Jackie.She wanted to do photos at five different sites in three different costumes, so off we went with her two helpers, Hilary and Libby.  Hilary held the reflector, Libby packed my camera bag, Jackie carried the camera and I carried the ladder using my bad back. 

These photos were taken in front of a huge boulder down on the beach

IMG_8814We took a wide range of photos.  We took some on some steps, on a log, in the flowers,  on a boulder, and some in the fireweed. These pictures show a high-key and a low-key shot comparision.  The low-key shot is dark, and the high-key shot is bright. Duh.  The steps were scouted by Jackie.  I’d never even seen them before and were really cool.  They were there all the time, I just hadn’t noticed them for their potential.

IMG_8837Jackie found this log too.  It’s a really cool  log down on the beach just a short walk from the road and has a range of posing options. 

In this option, there’s this annoying rock right behind her head.  But move the camera up about 6 feet, and the rock disappears form the field of view, As seen in the next photo

IMG_8840Notice in this second photo, the background is a near uniform field of grass, which is what you want in a background.  In a portrait, the primary focus should be the eyes of the subject so if there are too many distracting nonessential elements in the photo, then it doesn’t function properly as a portrait. 

These photos that Jackie wanted are called environmental portraits, in the trade, because they are taken out in the environment, rather than in a studio setting.  Of course, outdoors, there are other problems like bugs, thorns, rocks, mud and other things that make it tough to shoot.  These photos are helped by the nice overcast general lighting.

Then at 2:30, I went back to Canal Marine and I helped Cary load up the engine into the truck so we could get it onto the boat.  The goal was to get the engine in place with the back of the engine blocked up, ready to receive the transmission, and the front of the engine mounted correctly on its mounts.  We can’t install the engine properly because he’s going to rebuild my reduction gear, as the oil was completely contaminated with glycol and water for the last few weeks, unbeknownst to me until we were pulling the engine.

IMG_8358As can be seen in the photo at right, the tide was very high (notice the very shallow  angle of the ramp leading down to the dock), and it was a Saturday, plus Fish and Game just took off the 6 inch mesh restriction so there were a gob of boats wanting to haul off their chum salmon nets with the crane and then pull their smaller meshed (5.25 or 5.375 inch) nets onto their reels. 

And in amongst all these boats and nets, I was trying to help Cary put a new Cummins 5.9L Marine 6BTA engine into my boat.   I would have liked to have been taking photos of the entire operation, but was primarily operating the crane doing whatever Cary told me to do.  What he did was build a slight ramp out of the wooden blocking. 


IMG_8357In this photo, you can see his come-along hooked to the front of the engine, with a solid chain hooked to the stern of the engine (where the unpainted aluminum bell housing is).  That allows the angle of the engine to be adjusted while it’s being lowered into it’s slot.  As we lowered it down, he’d alternate between adjusting the blocking and pushing the engine in with his legs and telling me to lower the crane a little bit each time.  After we got the engine into it’s slot, the front of the engine was about 10 inches lower than it needed to be, so we blocked the back of the engine with wood so it wouldn’t slide astern and hooked the crane/come-along to the front engine lift access point and lifted the front of the engine with it so we could put the engine mounts on then put the shims under them, then put the bolts through the holes.

After about two hours, Holly called my cell phone and told me, “Kris Morden just called and said, “Tell Matt, he’s been at the 15 minute loading dock for three days and I’m coming over to take off my net and he better not be there when I get over there.” 

IMG_8365cAt the time he called, we were seemingly a hairs breadth from getting the front starboard engine mount locked down and were redoing the order of assembly of the coolant return line and the engine mount so that Cary could reach the bolts and actually get a wrench on them.  We had a good laugh at Kris’s audacity.  ‘Yeah, we’ll just move the boat back to its slip.’

As you can see from the close-up photo, taken from the front of the engine, they are virtually on top of each other but the coolant port needs to be installed first, else you can’t reach the bolts.  We sped up nonetheless.  David and Alex Knight wanted to use the crane to lift off their net box.  Norm was wanting to be in our position to get his net off, and two other boats were wanting to use the dock to load their nets as well.

IMG_8361In this photo, the engine is sitting on the blocking but doesn’t have the front mounts installed yet.  To get the engine in and out, we ‘skinnied it up,’ which means that all the extra stuff was removed from the engine proper to get it skinny enough to come out of the boat.

In about five to ten more minutes, we had the front two mounts on and we moved the engine down the dock about 60 feet out of everyone’s way.  Cha-Ching!  Engine in place!

Wow.  It felt so good to get the 1800 pound hunk of steel down in the right position that I got out a celebratory Mt. Dew for each of Cary and I and we cleaned up and went home, after only 2.5 hours of work–it was 5 PM anyhow.

Uncle John is home!

Bob and Margaret returned from Juneau today aboard the Greta with John!

IMG_8432cIt was sure great to see John again.  They made the trip from Juneau over two days,  anchoring up inside Mab Island last night and continuing on this morning.  Bob and Margaret aren’t prone to anchor up in unfamiliar spots, so it was nice that John was there to show them our favorite spot to anchor during the fishing season.  There was a very stiff south breeze blowing them along so they used the engine for only about 20 minutes or so on the trip home. 

John looks about the same, it seems. I suppose if one looks closely, he’s a bit older, but so is everyone else, self included. In the photo, he’s playing the local young folks in a friendly game of soccer.  Jack did the purchase on the soccer shoes that he’s sporting as he keeps the ball away from Chandler Kemp.  I was on the Windbreaker with the mechanic that is going to install the new engine when they pulled into their slip.  When I went to tie them up, the dingy was in the way and its rope was blocking the cleat, so I flubbed it and she rammed the dock.

The boys were sure happy to see him and play a little ball with him.  Of course Holly and John had a great time yapping about all sorts of things and I shoed him my Motion Computing LE1600 tablet PC and the cool stuff one can do with Art Rage 2.5.  He had a difficult time believing that I did the painting of Chandler, but that’s to be expected.  He’s been reading a book called Micro trends that seems like it would be worth reading.

Margaret fixed a wonderful meal for us and we had a nice celebratory repast.  Then the Men of Note rehearsed for the Saturday State Fair performance which will be at 2 PM.

A Sailing We Will Go!

Bob called early this morning and asked if we wanted to go sailing!  The plan was to take the boys in the morning, so we settled on gathering at the boat at 10 AM sharp.  IMG_5444

The Greta is a 35′ fiberglass sailboat that Bob & Margaret (My In-Laws) have owned for as long as I’ve known them.  The came to Alaska aboard her and toured SE Alaska until the decided to settle at the Senior Village in Haines. IMG_5462 Back before we had the boys, when bob was trying to go sailing once a month, he’d often bring me along to help man the lines or to steer while he set the sails.

The Greta (short for Margaret) is in immaculate condition, as Bob is quite faithful about polishing the hull each year and also varnishing the teak when it’s time.

Boats are great places to learn tons about the weather, physics, water, wind, and life in general.  IMG_5469Plus they’re great places crawl around and explore.  Margaret fed the boys peanut butter and jelly sandwiches down in the galley while Bob set the main sail to the second reef as we headed out of the harbor.   There were quite a few whitecaps on the water just out past the protection of Port Seward.  As a matter of fact, one of the reasons the Pluckers decided to stay in Haines when they were casting about for a home all those years ago, is that a decent sail is to be had just minutes out of the small boat harbor.

In the picture below, it looks like Bob was doing all the work.  But in reality, it was Bob at the wheel, me taking pictures, and Margaret on kid duty.  You do the math.

IMG_5508 Both Luke and Mark got a brief chance at the wheel before it got a little to windy for fun and we headed back in to the harbor.  Basically we made a straight shot for Skagway, then came about into the wind and headed back home the way we came.  Distance one equals distance two.

It was slightly overcast/scattered clouds when he called this morning, and we had three adults for three kids.

13th Annual Big Air Contest!

The big air contest was held at the Parade Grounds today and from my perspective it was a smashing success!

After yesterday’s downpour, it was a real treat for everyone to have perfect weather for the Big Air today.  It rained all day yesterday, nearly.  But today was another story, as you can see from the photos.

 IMG_2317Here’s a picture of Riley Nye (sp?) getting some good air.  I was quite impressed with the beginner division this year.  They had only the beginner’s division this year (or whatever it’s called) since the ramp and jump were so small that it was hard for them to really build up much speed. But it was fun nonetheless.  The Nye’s were here from Juneau serving up hot dogs from their grill, someone was playing some nice music, the sun came out and shown with a “whole in the sky, right over the jump,” as Luck Dunbar put it.

Holding the competition right here in town really added a lot, as the crowd was quite diverse and people were able to simply walk to it, instead of making the 1.5 hour drive up into Canada. 

IMG_2524 Another impressive individual to see in the race was Sean Asquith (in the blue helmet at right) who was in competition with his son Quinn.  I think he’s older than I am, and while he is a surfer and has great balance, it was still impressive to see someone of his age out there trying a sport that I think of as a bit risky and dare-devilish.

I was also really impressed by the 6 year old that jumped, Carver.  He did a great job on his skis and seemed to really know his IMG_2180 croppedway around on them.  My one regret in shooting the even is that I did not have a one-size-fits-all-super-zoom type of lens.  I could have seriously used an 18-200mm el-cheapo consumer lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6.  I did not bring my longer telephoto lenses to the event and just shot with my 17-55 and 10-22mm.  Often in  bright snowy events, there is no need for expensive glass, just a light-weight high ratio zoom is plenty.

Spring is coming!

The boys are starting to play outside again!

IMG_1846 Today, when I got home, Mark Daniel was outside playing for the first time in months.  And he didn’t even have his jacket on!  Of course he was doing what little boys typically do in the spring and fall: Climb trees!

The snow is melting fast and the rains are coming every third day or so, to help melt away all this ridiculous snow we’ve gotten this year.

Holly is not really in favor of letting the boys climb trees, because, as she says, “What if they can’t get down,” or ” What if he gets hurt while he’s coming down?”  Well, I don’t have a great response for that type of concern.  Usually, I say something condescending, like, “Well, I played like that when I was a kid too and I didn’t break any bones!.  Plus it’s hard to get too worried, because, after all it is just a small alder he’s climbing.

The days are getting longer: Time for a Trip to the beach!


IMG_1598If we pretend really hard, we can imagine we have a nice, warm, sunny beach with soft hot sand and a snow drift twenty feet high…

The weather has been impossibly beautiful  out here in Haines lately.  The wind has been out of the north, bringing in the cool air from the interior so the skies have been clear and the sun bright.  The days have been stunningly beautiful, but quite chilly.  It was below twenty on a few mornings lately.

IMG_1600 We simply had to go to the beach and give the boys some run-around and throw rocks time.  Having boys leads to that type of activity.

John Caleb is really thriving, he is starting to vocalize a bunch when surrounded by family and in a familiar setting and he’s gaining weight fast.

Physically, he’s gaining skills everyday.  Just today he started pushing his torso up to nearly 90 degrees, which is really good for a four month old according to the baby books we have on the shelf.

Luke is really learning to communicate well too and is getting his point across when speaking.  Although we have not made much forward progress on the potty training since we had him at the day care center with Kim Larson: she’s a miracle worker when it comes to potty training.

In other news, I went to the doctor to get his opinion on why my knee has been hurting and he things I have a torn left medial IMG_1626nmeniscus and didn’t think any physical therapy would help. His verdict was I have three options: 1) take up to three Ibuprofen per day four times a day to relieve the swelling and reduce the pain 2) have him remove the swelling by removing the fluid and injecting it with some cortisone 3) get orthoscopic surgery to have the meniscus smoothed out again.  He didn’t think footwear would make a difference. 

I do believe that the meniscus is torn, but do not think the pain is great enough to start in on any treatment at this point, but I am an active guy and may well rue the day I decided not to get surgery before the gillnetting season.

What I find interesting is that only one knee is bothering me.  Why not both knees?  I don’t remember ever having any sort of catastrophic injury on that knee.

Life is good

The last two days have been idylic.

I’ve gotten home from work and everything has been (just about) perfect.  The house was clean, the kids were happy, the meal was planned and nearly ready to go, the towels were ready to be folded…  it was all peace and love.

Two nights ago, we had home-made pizza.  Yum.

Last night, we had home made macaroni.  Yum.

Another cool thing is that the Cross Country Album has arrived and I’ve sold two more of those.  I really like doing the albums, because they are a really cool finished product and a fun way for me to be creative.  If you haven’t seen any of my albums, please take some time to check out a couple…I still have to make two custom alubms and then order one more.

I need to do a cost analysis on this next album and see if it was worth the extra time if I sell x number of albums.  I like making them, but at least once so far has not been worth the extra effort.