Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Meals-On-Wheels may sound like the name of the latest fast food restaurant, but in reality, it's far from it. Astoria, like many communities nationwide has a program (meals-on-wheels) which delivers a hot meal to residents who are housebound. Typically, those served by the program are elderly and often have limited contact with the world outside of their front door.

During the snowy days in late December, I had the honor on several occasions to assist with the daily deliveries. My job was relatively simple, arrive at the center's kitchen at 9:30 AM, load the 40 to 50 hot meals into coolers, and then stow the coolers in the delivery vehicle. As the assistant, all that is necessary is a strong back and a weak mind. Fortunately, the vehicle driver has been making daily deliveries for a number of years so he knows where to go without aid of map, compass, or GPS. Once the vehicle is loaded, you just follow the driver's cues.

Once started, the process is simple and repeated until all meals are delivered; cross check the individual name and address with the list and be sure if they are a diabetic they get a white bag. I have never looked inside of one, but apparently the diabetic's "goodie bag" is different. I presume that the difference has to do with the type of dessert served, but that's only a guess on my part.

The delivery process seldom takes much more than two hours so it's not a big time commitment. On the other hand, the rewards are priceless! At nearly every stop, you are greeted by someone whose smile of gratitude is truly genuine!

The meals-on-wheels organization also insists that when you volunteer, you must take a meal home with you for your personal enjoyment. After my first time out, I arrived back at the center to find that all the volunteer lunch were marked with your name as shown in the photo. The row of lunch bags marked with each individual's name instantly sent me back to my elementary school days; believe me, that's a long trip!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Baby It's Cold Out There

After nearly four weeks of snow, rain, flooding, and endless cloudy days, the skies finally cleared and the sun returned big time. Despite the sunshine, it's still January and that frequently means cold temperatures. Saturday morning it was a chilly 38 degrees but with the east wind howling, the wind chill made it feel more like 29 degrees.

My mission for the day was to host visitors on the Lightship for two hours and hopefully not freeze to death in the process. When I arrived to "assume command" of the boat so to speak, I checked to be sure that the heater was functioning at full throttle. Since the outside temperature was still brutal, I figured that few if any visitors would venture out from the warmth of the museum. Just as I got settled and was defrosting my frozen bones over the heater, I notice a few hardy souls approaching. The standard procedure is to greet visitors as they hit the deck and to share a little of Lightship's history. My picture of the ship's ensign might give you an indication of how strong the wind was blowing at this point.

Where as the wind was howling and quickly chilled one to the bone, I decided on a new greeting protocol for the day. I simply welcomed visitors into the ship to enjoy the warmth. No one complained and I noticed that most stayed well beyond the typical ten minute visit. I wonder why?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Storm Light and Clouds

If you ever want to experience rapidly changing weather and the opportunities it offers, venture to the Oregon coast during the months of winter or spring. One moment you can be pelted by hail stones and rain that are driven horizontally by the wind. If you brave the onslaught and patiently wait, you might be treated to a brief parting of the clouds as one squall passes and another approaches. In between the squalls, you might luck out and experience "storm light", a brief period when the sky is rich with both color and excitement.

A few weeks ago during a period of stormy weather, I recalled several lines from a 1960s song:

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Both Sides Now - Joni Mitchell

With those lyrics swirling in my head, I grabbed the camera and headed for the beach to see if it was actually possible to see both sides of a cloud. The three images below were taken within an hour and hopefully give you an idea of what I saw and experienced.

A few minutes of "storm light" as a squall approached from the southwest

The storm pelting the windshield of my truck

Looking to the northeast as the squall passed. Hopefully we are seeing the back side of the cloud

Monday, January 5, 2009

Views From The Front Porch

In a recent post by Paul Lester, he wrote about going beyond the technical aspect of making pictures; he advanced the idea of using your photos to tell a story. This summer I attempted this type of project with limited success, however Paul's post has once again rekindled the fire. Besides it's winter, the weather is nasty, and I will be taking another class at the community college so a diversion for all of this might be in order.

My plan is to photograph the views from my front porch; the deck of the porch is only four by twelve feet so from that aspect, the world is pretty small. We do however live on a very busy corner traffic wise so my guess is that the photos will not generally be static. On the other hand, I seriously doubt that they will be overly exciting. The object is simply to look and see what happens over a period of time. For this project, I will also keep the advise of Yogi Berra close at hand when he utter the following: "You can learn a lot by just looking".

With all of this in mind, I dashed to the porch this morning for a look and to make a few test shots to see what issues I will be facing. It's amazing what you see on a daily basis but never really pay attention to until you have cause. For example, the newel posts that anchor the railing to the steps restrict a good deal of the view. The three columns that support the porch roof will also present a challenge; I can not just whack them down with an ax!

You will also notice that there are lines in all of the views; they converge, diverge, and supply power to the houses. How do you make them work for you? Since I do not own Photoshop, cloning and stamping is not an option.

Then there is the thought of whether to show vehicle motion by blurring or simply by placement in the street.

I only have two lenses and it appears that my 17-85 mm will struggle with large vehicles such as the city bus. One thing I know for sure, I'm not buying another lens!

It also occurred to me that since today it was overcast, there were no challenges with lighting. On a sunny day, that might not be the case. Just a reminder for those of you who seldom get to the Oregon coast; we do get sunshine occasionally, even in January!

So with all this in mind, I will leave you with just one more thought from the great Yogi Berra who once said the following: "You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there". Let the project begin.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ice On The Chevy

It has become somewhat of a tradition to take down the Christmas tree and lights on the first weekend following New Years. Since yesterday was a particular nasty day weather wise and clearly the best place was inside, I decided to get a jump on the post Christmas chores. I took down all of the interior lights and miscellaneous decorations but decided to leave the tree for my lovely wife to un-decorate. We have tons of ornaments and each one has it's own special storage box so clearly this was not a job for me. If left to my own designs, I likely would toss everything in one box and call it good.

So the only project for today was to get out the step latter and remove the five strands of lights wrapped around the porch pillars. Upon opening the front door this morning at 6:30 AM, I noticed that the stars were visible in the sky. Although this is a joyful sight, it also mean that any moisture that fell during the night has frozen solid as a rock. When my foot slid off the first step, the "freezing moisture theory" was now confirmed.

As I write, the sunshine is attempting to burn through the clouds but the temperature remains barely above freezing. The front porch is still encased in ice, so use of the step ladder on it might be grounds for a Darwin Award nomination. Sadly, the exterior lights might have to brave another day of two clinging to the porch columns.

The picture is of my neighbor's '57 Chevy Apache pick up truck encased in a thick coat of ice. Pretty cool stuff.