Sunday, February 26, 2006


Today at the schoolyard I played fetch with my dog.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Stay away from my slushy

I know its not perfect, but it makes me laugh. (As if my nephew needs any help making people laugh.) Feel free to submit your own caption. I figure CJ has a pretty good head start on us.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


  1. 90% of the time speed is your friend.
  2. Don’t ride scared.
  3. Always respect your board.
  4. Who’s ready to ride?
I snowboard with a tight group of snow enthusiasts made up mostly of my brothers. When we are out in the cold we have a handful of sayings that we repeat to each other. Three of them are warnings; one is a mantra. The warnings are akin to such battle-tested phrases as keep your eye on the ball, hydrate or die, and never leave your wingman. We recite these quips because we have learned from experience that they are true, and because in the excitement of a powder-filled slope or even in the forgettable flats near a lift-line they will keep you off your butt.

Especially, always respect your board.

A snowboard is a fickle friend. Its balance beam-like properties and opposing edges should never be disrespected. As soon as you drop your guard, you will catch an edge. At no time should you relax.

No one knows this better than Lindsey Jacobellis. I don’t think the now infamous, method-grab was to blame for her crash. Nor do I think that it was any more unwarranted than a racer pumping their fists in the air before they cross the finish line as Tanja Frieden did while capturing the gold in women’s snowboardcross. Where Lindsey made her mistake was not heeding warning #3. When she launched from the second to last jump in the race her mind was thinking gold and not about respecting her board. The style-filled backside grab was the beginning of her celebration and should not be questioned. Her mistake was not the jump--it was the landing. Seeing her bounce across the blue-painted snow should serve as a reminder of how capricious a snowboard can be.

While it is sad to see Lindsey miss the top spot on the podium, I admire her spirit. She has admitted that she “messed up”, but is quick to add that “snowboarding is fun.” In my opinion it is one of the most fun events they air. The competitors in the snowboarding events are riding because they like it and it is fun. The medals are nice, but I’ll bet each of them would be out riding even if there were no Olympics. (I doubt you could say that for many of the sour-faced, pairs figure skaters.) Which is why we snowboarders always answer the fourth question enthusiastically: “I’m ready to ride!”

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Digital Secrets

The great thing about this blog is the interaction that it spawns. I enjoy hearing from each of you and feel like the dialog is easily as engaging as my posts. Sometimes a question is raised that starts a new conversation. My dad asked me about the technique I was discussing on Flickr that I used for the sunrise shot in the Hut Trip post. I figured the explanation merited a post of its own.

First, let’s start with the limitations of the sensor in a digital camera. For any given exposure a camera can only capture a fixed range of brightness or colors. This fixed range is smaller than the range that you can see with your eyes. So, if you try to photograph a scene that has a broad range of brightness, your picture will not look like what you saw. Since many of the pictures we take have color levels that fall within the camera’s range, this limitation often goes unnoticed. A picture that does not have both a bright light source and a dark shadow will generally be accurately captured. However, there are times when a scene has both a bright light source and dark shadows preventing the camera from representing both extremes in one image.

When a scene with a broad range of brightness is encountered, the camera has to choose whether it will capture the bright colors at the expense of the dark ones, or, capture the dark ones at the expense of the brights. A common scene with this issue is a sunrise. The range between the light area and dark area is much too wide for the camera to capture, so it usually chooses to properly expose the light area resulting in a nice pink sky with a black horizon. This silhouette is a pleasing image and makes a great picture; however, it does not accurately represent what the photographer saw. This dilemma describes the predicament I was in that morning at the hut.

The solution I chose was to take 2 images and then combine them on my computer. The first image was exposed for the foreground; note the detail of the snow on the branches. The sky in the first picture is completely blown-out and doesn’t have any of the red that I was looking at. In the second picture I exposed for the sky, capturing the rich, red colors that were present. In doing so I sacrificed the detail in the trees. Once I got home, I used Photoshop to combine the 2 images. I learned the process from a website called Luminous Landscapes in a tutorial they call Digital Blending. Check it out if you are interested in the actual detail of combining the images in Photoshop.

Traditionally, photographers would use a split neutral density filter to achieve this result. These filters block light at the top of the image while letting it through on the bottom allowing the photographer to pull off 2 separate exposures with one image.

Another technique worth mentioning is the use of fill-flash. Let’s say you have a colorful sky and you want to take a picture of someone in front of it. Without flash you will just get a silhouette of the person. But, if you turn on the flash you can achieve both the color from the sky and the person in the foreground.

Hope that helps, Dad. And, if anyone tries this out, I’d love to see your results.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hut Trip

BlakeHutThey are called huts, but don’t let the name fool you. Although these structures have a history as a simple system of shelters used by shepherds as they moved their sheep from one mountain pasture to the next, they have evolved into a collection of cabins used by summer hikers and winter, backcountry enthusiasts. Today the simple wooden shacks have been replaced by sprawling cabins complete with large windows that open to breathtaking views, efficient woodstoves, comfortable sleeping quarters, and battery powered lights that are charged by solar panels.

To reach the hut I visited this past weekend, we hiked 3.5 miles over 9 inches of fresh snow that covered the season’s accumulated snowpack. The trail rose nearly 1600 feet from the trailhead parking and took about 3 hours to navigate.

My brother Blake has been on 4 similar trips and my schedule finally allowed me to join him. Also in our party were my brother Cody, Blake’s friend Hull, Hull’s coworker Kerry, and her husband Mark. My brothers and I are snowboarders and use a system called a splitboard to hike on the snow, (I’ll discuss my split board in a future post), the other members all ride tele skis which transition easily from carving to hiking.

BlakePowOnce we reached the hut we quickly emptied our packs of anything but the safety essentials and headed back out to carve some turns.

The recent snowfall gave us numerous powder turns, and I soon realized this trip was going to be special. You see, here in the NW the snow falls at a temp just below freezing and is usually met by rising temperatures, causing the snow to feel heavy. What I found in Colorado was much different. Their snow falls when the mercury reads 10 degrees and it regularly stays below 20 keeping the snow light and fluffy. Light, cold snow offers an effortless glide that is amazing to ride.

The next day was spent exploring and riding the numerous glades around the hut. The snow continued to fall and kept us from venturing onto the slopes above timberline because of high winds. This mattered little since the trees protected us from the weather and offered remarkable stashes of powder-filled delights.

On our final day the storm receded, and we climbed the large snowfield above the hut where we found generous carving options. My brothers and I enjoyed them so much that we hiked back up and rode them again even though it meant we would be caught in the afternoon traffic-jam that was sure to clog I-70 as the ski resorts sent people home for the night. Such are the sacrifices for a group of powderhounds intent on satisfying their fix.

As grand as I’ve made this all sound, there were moments of severe discomfort. ClimbNot only is my NW snow different from that found in Colorado, so is the altitude. I live at about 300 ft above sea level. Our first day’s hike began at 10,160 ft and climbed from there. Most of the time I felt as if I’d had 7/8 of my lungs surgically removed. It didn’t help that Blake’s friends are amazing athletes each competing in numerous adventure-races, triathlons and ultra-marathons; not to mention the fact that they live at an elevation over 6000ft. I am grateful for their patience with me as I often practiced the deadman’s shuffle up the trail behind them.

So why endure such pain? Surely there are powder-covered slopes that can be accessed with the assistance of chairlifts? This is true, but they come with some unavoidable nuisances. The best snow is snow that no one else has touched. At a resort it will mostly all be touched in a couple of hours, so you are always racing to beat everyone else to the ‘goods’. You also have to wait in line with a bunch of knuckleheads who, like you, feel cheated that they spent so much on a lift ticket only to waste all of their time in a slow lift line. The closest I’ve come to a fistfight as an adult was waiting in line for a ride to the top.

In the backcountry these problems are avoided. The snow is limitless and lift-lines are non-existent.

The turns I enjoyed on this trip were some of the best I’ve seen. The soft, CO powder dropped from beneath me as I weightlessly glided down the slopes. For those of you who haven’t experienced this, pick something in your life that you enjoy and then imagine enjoying it under the perfect conditions. Your favorite meal shared with your closest friends. Watching your favorite team beat their rivals as you cheer from the student section. Listening to your favorite music performed by your favorite band in a private jam-session. A kiss that lingers on your lips and tastes as sweet as honey. (Do you feel me?) Such were the joys of this trip.
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