Big Picture One – Directory Of Multimedia eLearning Posts

Multimedia essays & eLearning programs by: David Anthony Johanson  © All Rights 

To quickly view sites of interest, just click on the white text to the right of the feature photo & above the program’s description. You also have the option to navigate to each essay by simply scrolling down past the end of this directory.

Essays are listed in chronological order from when they were first published.

You’ll find in each program essay, a spectrum of resources to help better understand & appreciate the subject matter. To enhance your experience, a variety of carefully considered dynamic content is used, including: photographs, videos, graphics, text & hyperlinks to other sites. Every effort is made to assure the information presented is factually correct by cross referencing content & giving proper credit for creative work used in the stories & essays.

You’re invited & encouraged to comment on the programs presented here, by doing so, you enrich the site by making it a more interactive experience. All constructive comments are welcome, even if you’re not in total agreement with the article’s point of view.

The author of these sites is a multimedia photographer, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer.

For an alternative graphic format of these programs, please visit — www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com 

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/new-brain-based-learning-strategies-explored-using-neuroimaging/  New Brain-Based Learning Strategies Explored To Help Achieve Your Full Potential. Finding and sharing new learning strategies, that are inspired from evidence based, neuroimaging and brain-mapping studies, is a dynamic process to help assist individuals in reaching their full learning potential. Brain-based learning is a spectrum of teaching strategies, which uses neuroscience research on how the brain functions in achieving ideal development and potential. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/gone-in-30-seconds-elearning-program-on-rocket-launch-disaster/  Gone In 30 seconds… It’s estimated that an average of 8 percent of all commercial rocket launches end in failure. This eLearning program includes a compendium of 20th & 21st century rocket launches, including dramatic failures. A succinct introduction to space law is included for greater appreciation of the consequences and liabilities related to the growing number of commercial rocket launches. A detailed world map illustrates the major spaceports & launch centers using GPS coordinates and web address. 

An eLearning program for secondary/post secondary education and community learning content covered: — aerospace/astronautic engineering, avionics, economics & business, environmental footprint, financing, manufacturing, marketing, obsolescence management, technology& Space Law. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/david-a-johanson-historian/  Will The Next Jet Airliner You Fly Be Obsolete, And Ready for Early Retirement?  This multimedia essay examines the evolving financing strategies and technological developments affecting older generation commercial aircraft. An eLearning program for secondary/post secondary education and community learning. Assessment tool: A quiz and answer key is located at the end of the program. Learning content covered: aerospace/airliner— aerospace engineering, avionics, economics & business, environmental footprint, financing, manufacturing, marketing, obsolescence management, technology. Learning concepts used: Applied Learning, Adult Learning, Competency-based Learning, Critical Thinking, Integrative Learning. Key: Words or phrases italicized are used to focus on essential concepts or terms for enhanced learning and retention.

[ Disclaimer: David Johanson is a former Boeing scientific photographer and currently has no stock holdings or a financial interest in: Boeing, Airbus or any other companies referenced in this program. Research in this article has been cross referenced using at least three sources, however, all perspectives and opinions represent only the viewpoints of the author.]

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/the-environment-our-earths-lost-frontier/ The Environment, Our Earth’s Lost Frontier. A photo essay dedicated to the environment using photos from editorial and industrial photo assignments. From Alaska’s oil rich Arctic region to the tropical rain forest of Hawaii, environmental encounters and stories are visually shared. eLearning – suitable for secondary/postsecondary education, community & extended learning. Photo-illustration, graphics, text and links on Earthday and the environment included within this program. 

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/the-martian-prophecies-earths-conquest-of-the-red-planet/  The Martian Prophecies. In this futurist multimedia photo essay, a correspondent from 2054 presents a series of Astronautical engineering and Astrobiology developments enabling the remarkable colonization of Mars. ELearning – suitable for secondary/postsecondary education, community & extended learning. Extensive photo-illustration, graphics, text and links on Mars colonization included within this program.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/an-introductionary-guide-to-steampunk/ A Beginners Guide to Steampunk. — Photo essay introduction to Steampunk subculture. As a sub-genre of science fiction its practitioners feature Victorian era clothing along with accessories such as goggles, intricate antique jewelry & a wide spectrum of retro-futuristic attachments. Subjects include critical thinking, alternative lifestyle, 19TH Century Industrial History & Steampunk Etymology.

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https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/how-did-romes-vitruvius-become-the-worlds-first-impact-player-in-architecture/  Multimedia photo essay introduction to Roman architect & engineer Vitruvius, who writes the first book on architecture. Vitruvius’ influence is relevant for modern architecture, STEM, Pre-Engineer & CTE related content. For Secondary & post secondary learning. ELearning, Links relating subject matter, quizzes for learning. Extensive photography of Roman architecture featured from: Rome, Ostia Antica & Herculaneum.

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Pearl_Harb_VC_BPP_e8v474bigpictureone.wordpress.com/tag/photos-of-pearl-harbor-visitor-center/  Low light architectural photography of the new Pearl Harbor Visitor Center on Oahu, Hawaii. Multicultural essay of modern Hawaiian & Pan Pacific Cultures. — multimedia photo essay, eLearning, photo tutorial on marketing & night photography, reference links

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Sky_look_ BPP_ae208Is Space Law Really That Far Over Your Head? | bigpictureone   Space Law introduction, case studies, space port launch sites, space debris, asteroid mining includes history of the modern rocket program. — Multimedia essay, eLearning, STEM & CTE content, quizzes, interactive map, video links, reference links
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Reflecting on the 33rd Anniversary of Mount Saint Helens Eruption | bigpictureone    Reflections on a close encounter with one of the worlds most active stravovolcanos.  Mt. Saint Helens eruption – photo essay, eLearning, reference links

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What Chance Will America’s Youth Have In A Changing   STEM_EXPFair_ESD_BPP_E23Global Economy? | bigpictureone STEM Education & Magnet Schools – Origins of the program & its success in public education. STEM expo at Mountlake Terrace HS -Edmonds School District.–  Multimedia essay, eLearning, STEM & CTE content, reference links

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Photo-illustration: David Johanson Vasquez © All RightsReflections From A Future Hawaii. Can A Tropical Paradise Become A Portal To Deep Space? | bigpictureone   Futuristic Hawaii in the year 2054 as it’s transformed into a space port & gateway to space. — Multimedia essay, eLearning, links

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Waikiki_Santa_BPP_E22An unusual encounter with a Waikiki Santa Clause | bigpictureone      Photo essay of a Waikiki Santa Clause using an adaptation of Clement Clare Moore’s (1799 -1863) classic poem — Twas the night before Christmas. Multimedia photo essay.  Mele Kalikimaka! — multimedia, poetry, eLearning

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Silhoute_man_ocean_BPP_E227https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/will-the-last-people-remaining-in-america-turn-the-lights-back-on/  Multimedia essay on solar flares, solar/geomagnetic storms & solar maximum of 2013-2014. Potential solar storm scenarios, which government scientist & federal agencies are warning about, including loss of world power grids. Resources & links to various publications & sites  included. — multimedia, eLearning on solar storm history & threats to current infrastructure, STEM related content, quizzes, reference links

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EPSON scanner imageA Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole | bigpictureone Family photo taken in 1941 at Havana’s Sloppy Joe’s, inspired this photo essay of events shortly before & after the start of WWII. Family chronicled as they arrive in Panama for reunion with my grandfather, evacuated & survive being stalked by German wolf-pack U-boat submarine. — multimedia essay – eLearning

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R22_Helicopt_DAJ_44The Latest Full Throttle Multimedia Video of Seattle From the R22 Beta Helicopter – Part 2 of 2 | bigpictureone  Helicopter safety & repair video, aerial photography of Seattle & Boeing field, using an R22. — STEM & CTE learning, multimeida, eLearning, quizzes video essay.

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R22_helicopt_DAJ_42A Full Throttle Multimedia Video of Seattle      From the R22 Beta II Helicopter – Part 1 of 2. | bigpictureone  Helicopter safety & repair video, aerial photography for Port of Seattle, from Boeing Field, using an R22, eLearning video essay. STEM & CTE learning, aerospace engineering. — mutlimedia, eLearning, quizzes, resource links

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Man_micro_chip_BPP_et169https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/who-were-the-titans-of-telecommunication-and-information-technology/ Introduction to R&D research labs through a multimedia history of Bell Laboratory, its developments inventions. Second chapter explores Xerox PARC founding in Silicon Valley &  contributions it made to personal computing & telecommunications. — eLearning, quizzes, reference links

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Star_Showr_Ref_Lk_BPP_e616https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/08/16/blinded-by-the-light-in-the-middle-of-night/  Photo essay on light pollution’s effects on night photography, astronomy, animal migrations & quality of life. Mount Rainier National Park & long exposure photographs of landscape & star constellations are featured in this essay. — multimedia, eLearning, STEM related content,  quizzes, resource links

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Aurora_Bor_BPP_il_0011_1https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/theres-nothing-new-under-the-sun-or-is-there/  Multimedia essay introduction to solar storms (including historical perspective), CME’s, effects of geomagnetic disturbances & potential threats to global electrical power grids. The connection between solar storm activity & aurora Borealis — eLearning, STEM related content, quizzes, resource links

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Orvi_Italy_BPP_E0412https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/exploring-etruscan-ruins-beneath-the-cliffs-of-medieval-orvieto-italy/ Multimedia essay on one of Europe’s best kept secrets — the medieval fortress citadel, Orvieto. Explores Etruscan ruins, grottos, medieval architecture, massive cathedrals & nearby Umbria countryside. Examines Etruscan art & its misunderstood cultural traditions under the shadow of the Roman Empire. — Critical thinking, World history & culture, travel, e-Learning, extensive photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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Paint_Hills, BPP__42https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/1382/ Multimedia essay includes video interview with a National Park Service’s ranger on the unique geology & wildlife qualities of John Day National Monument’s Painted Hills. Video features exclusive walking tour, which occurs only once per year. — night photography, resource links

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Boe_ing_787_First_Flt_BPP_Bg404Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Historic First Flight From Paine Field, Everett, WA. | bigpictureone Historic first flight video of Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Everett facilities by BigPictureOne. Multimedia of Boeing Scientific photography experience related to aircraft structures & test engineering. — ELearning, STEM & CTE Ed, large photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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SeaSPNed_BP_90_MRhttps://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-world-event-which-launched-seattle-into-a-post-modern-orbit-50-years-ago-today/  Multimedia essay explores an early postmodern World’s fair — known as Seattle’s Century 21 Worlds Fair, opened in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  e-Learning, STEM related content, quizzes, extensive photos

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twinT_WTC_NYC BPP_arl_44https://bigpictureone.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/the-day-after-911-ten-years-after/ Multimedia narrative of a 1998 visit to the NYC World Trade Center Towers & the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Seattle architect Minoru Yamasaki’s designs of the NYC Trade Centers are compared with his Seattle Science Center design for the Century 21 Worlds Fair —eLearning, critical thinking, extensive photo gallery, quizzes, resource links

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Snoqu_almie_Falls_BPP_Ae_6174Luminous Beauty of Low-light Photography | bigpictureone Photo essay tutorial on low-light photography. Strategies & techniques of using low noise sensors in digital cameras. Terms such as magic hour & HDR photography are explained. — eLearning, CTE related content, photo gallery

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Kingdome Demo_BPP_ 2KIngdome demolition March 26 2000 | bigpictureone Video multimedia essay of one of the World’s largest demolitions of Seattle Kingdome. E-learning, video tutorial (featured slow-motion & high-speed video effects), essay of event & aftermath from dust storm. Reference links included.

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Tech_abst_BPP__3ea1Will The Current Solar Storms Hitting Earth, Lead To Lights-out for us by 2013-2014? | bigpictureone A multimedia essay introduction to solar storms, history of geomagnetic effects on industrial & postmodern societies. Civil preparedness, Photos & videos of Aurora Borealis. STEM & solar physics undergraduate content, extensive photos, resource links

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An Unusual Encounter With A Waikiki Santa Clause.

Perhaps because it was this Santa's timing or because of the location he chose, that it was too surreal for children to be eager to meet him.  Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Perhaps it was this Santa’s timing or because of the location he chose, which was just too surreal for children to be eager to meet him. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Photos & Poem by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights Reserved

Twas a month before Christmas, when all throughout the tropical beach, Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.

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When out near the palm trees there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my beach towel, camera in hand, to photograph the matter.

A postmodern cellphone Santa strolls down a section of Waikiki.  Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

A postmodern cellphone Santa strolls down a section of Waikiki. Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

The bright sun reflecting off the ocean and sand, Gave luster of mid-day to objects on land. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear on Waikiki, But Santa Clause with a cellphone in hand, and stunned sun bathers nearby, trying to understand why.

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Santa appears to be looking for his lost reindeer.Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Santa appears to be looking for his lost reindeer.
Photo: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Mele Kalikimaka!

May all your holiday gatherings be happy, warm and full of good cheer throughout next year!

Happy New Years!

This experience happened on my adventure to Oahu, Hawaii, on Waikiki Beach in November 2012. I adapted Clement Clare Moore’s (1799 – 1863)  classic poem — Twas the night before Christmas

Blinded By Light, In The Middle Of Night

 
Multimedia eLearning program by: David A. Johanson © All Rights  — Second Edition

The author is a multimedia specialist, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer. For an alternative formatted view of this program, please visit — www.ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com

 

My photo wingman, Rick Wong and I headed into the heart of darkness in a quest for the Perseid meteor showers. Mount Rainier National Park, was our destination to use its iconic landmark for framing an infinite field of stars—far from the glare of city lights. Traveling at night in Rick’s new hybrid Ford Fusion, equipped with “information technology”—voice navigation, made it easy finding the park without using a map.

Arriving at our location, luminous stars lit up the night as expected, but we were surprised by some uninvited competition, which nearly stole the show.

A stunning view of Mount Rainier reflected in Reflection Lake, with the summer stars overhead. The pink and orange glow on the left side of the mountain is light pollution emitted from the City of Tacoma, approximately 65 miles northwest.

We found an ideal location above Reflection Lake to begin our photo shoot, with one of the Cascade Mountain’s most famous stratovolcano in the background. An unexpected warm light was glowing behind Mount Rainier, which I reasoned, was a faint remnant from the earlier sunset. However, the sun had set at least four hours earlier, so it couldn’t be the source of the illumination. Rick suggested “its light coming from the City of Tacoma,” located about 65 miles away. During a 20-second long exposures used to take an image of the snow-capped mountain, I began thinking about the effects caused by light pollution.
With a bright moon rising, we worked fast to keep up with the changing light, until its intensity eventually overpowered the stars.

Just now, the moon was rising higher into the night sky, it too was causing us to shift focus on what to photograph. Like a giant diffuse reflector, the moon reflected soft, filtered light onto a previously dark, formless landscape. Moonlight was beginning to compete with the canopy of stars’ brilliance, partially masking crystal clear views of the Milky Way, along with some meteor sightings. So being photo opportunist, we used the moonlight to illuminate shadow-detail on Rainier’s south face.

Like some sorcerer conjuring an intense cauldron of red light, the photographer adjusts his digital settings before Mount Rainier and her crown of stars above.

A Peaceful Paradise Lost                                                                                             There’s a tranquil feeling while in the process of taking long exposures at night; it’s normally quiet and not many visual distractions overwhelm the senses or interrupt your focus. I personally enjoy these rare opportunities of solitude, to visualize an image, using a minimal, Zen like perspective.

 

When a distraction, like a car suddenly rounding a corner occurs, it’s often an annoyance, which takes you out of the moment. My moment was taken by clusters of cars, with glaring lights as they came around a turn… just as the moon illuminated the mountain, as it was reflected onto a perfectly still lake.. Their headlights flooded the calm mirror-like water and stands of old growth trees beyond with glaring intensity— as I used my hands in an attempt to shield the lens from light flare. Finally, the cars diapered into the darkness with no more approaching vehicles until dawn.

Photo-illustration of micro light sources, which can cause light pollution by unintended spill-light.

Moving above the lake to find new angles for interesting compositions, I took notice of something not seen before. Lights of various colors were coming from photographers bellow me, created by their digital camera’s preview monitors and infrared sensors for auto focusing. With the low light-sensitive Nikon cameras I was using, these multicolored monitor lights, appeared like a bright flare on the long exposure images. Now, I had one more unwelcome light source to avoid, which required strategic timing in the photo’s exposures to minimize glare.

Again, my thoughts returned to the issues of light pollution. Recalling the time back home, when I attempted to photograph some constellations at night, only to have a neighbor’s motion sensor flood light, overwhelmed the backyard with brightness. The piercing light  forced me to find the last remaining, isolated shadowed corner of the yard.

My reminiscing was cut short by a distant, but bright, pinpoint of light from bellow Mount Rainier’s summit. Flashlights from mountain climbers near Camp Muir shined bright—like lighthouse beacons from the semi darkened rocks and glacier fields on the mountain. Even the faintest light can shine bright at night as was noted during World War II, when warships were forbidden from having any exterior lights on at night — including a lit cigarette, which posed a risk of being spotted from great distances by enemy submarines.

Lights from mountain climbers on the approach to the summit of Mount Ranier.

Encountering the Universe’s Brilliance                                                                       The improper, overuse of outdoor lighting has erased one of our basic and most powerful human experiences—encountering the universe’s brilliance with its galaxies and billions of stars shining in the night sky! Making visual contact with our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of the greatest shows seen from Earth.

 

In less than a century of civilization’s reliance on electric technology: two-thirds of the U.S., half of Europe and a fifth of people in the world—now live where they cannot see the Milky Way with the unaided eye. You can appreciate how we lost our stellar view by seeing aerial photos taken from orbiting spacecraft and the International Space Station. These startling images taken of the Earth at night, reveal a man-made galaxy of artificial light, which cancels out much of the real one in the sky above.

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Some years back, I was a part-owner in a small recreational ranch, in Eastern Washington’s, Okanogan County. Brining friends over from Seattle, it was often nighttime when we arrived. The instant of exiting the cars, was a startling event as the Milky Way’s intensity of light overwhelmed your senses. The “ranch” was remotely located, at about 5,000 feet in the mountains, near the Canadian border and 30-miles from the closest town. Days would go by where we didn’t see a car or even hear a small airplane go overhead… it was one of the most refreshing experiences of my life, to perceive nothing except wind going through trees and seeing only starlight at night for hours at a time.

Image courtesy of NASA

A television interview with the director of a major observatory in Southern California recounted when Los Angeles had its last electrical blackout —people were calling 911 and his observatory, with reports of strange, bright objects in the night sky. Actually, what the callers were seeing for the first time, was the Milky Way’s canopy of shining stars.

   

Image courtesy of NASA.

Besides forfeiting a life inspiring, wondrous view of the cosmos, there’s tangible losses associated with light pollution. Conservative estimates are—30 % of U.S. outdoor lighting is pointed skyward in the wrong direction, which wastes billions of dollars of electricity. The unnecessary practice of lighting clouds, burns more than 6 million tons of coal, which adds: harmful greenhouse gas emissions, along with toxic chemicals into our atmosphere and water.

Further scientific studies indicate wildlife is suffering the ill effects of excessive urban lighting. The City of Chicago has taken measures to turn off or dim its high-rise lighting to enable migrating birds to continue normal migration patterns. An increase in species of insects attracted to light along with rodents, which are drawn towards bright city lighting, is a growing concern to many scientists.

Heavy equipment product shots never look quite this good. Scheduled improvements to the viewing area above Reflection Lake, had some equipment, taking a nap, before going to work when the sun came up.

Education Is the Solution to Light Pollution                                                                    The reason light pollution continues to expand is, we have grown accustomed to its seemingly benign presence. After all, probably no one can point to a single case of a person killed from overexposure to light pollution. However, there is a growing correlation of health risks associated with overexposure from artificial light. Some of the main symptoms include, physical fatigue and damage to eyesight. This lighting health risk was recognized in 2009, when the American Medical Association officially established a policy, which supports the control of light pollution.

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Municipal lighting codes are beginning to help define and eliminate unnecessary light pollution. Lighting enforcement can create a more pleasing environment, by reducing excessive urban lighting, which causes fatigue from glare and cuts down on unnecessary electric utility cost. Redirecting outdoor lighting away from the sky where it is needlessly wasted is a simple and easy solution.

Installing motion detector security lights are another efficient and productive mitigation strategy. For security purpose, a light, which is triggered by motion is much more effective for crime prevention than a continuous floodlight. Motion detector lights have a clear advantage of focussing our attention onto an area, which is triggered by a sudden change from darkness to bright-light.

The light intensity of the Milky Way is a breathtaking wonder to witness at night —` unrestricted light-pollution has faded this wonder from what was once a valued human experience. You can see the Andromeda Galaxy in the right 1/3 of the frame. Nikon D700 – Nikkor 28mm lens @ F3.5 @ 20 seconds August 11 11:48 p.m.

 

The encouraging news is… the key to reducing light pollution is a simple matter of basic education and action. Public awareness of over-lighting requires a minimal expenditure, which will quickly pay for itself in energy savings and perhaps return the opportunity to experience one of the greatest shows seen from earth. ~

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Light pollution glossary:

Urban Sky glow: the brightening of the night skies over municipalities and communities, caused primarily from high-volumes  of collective, reflected light and poorly directed light, which is pointed upward or not shielded properly.

Light trespass: light falling or spilling into areas where it is not intended. Also know as “spill light” – as in municipal streetlights, which go beyond the intended illumination of street signs and sidewalks, causing an unwanted exterior lighting of residential homes.

Glare: A direct, bright or harsh light, which causes discomfort or pain. The effects of glare can be reduced or eliminated with the use of a shield or filter.

Uplight: Light angled inappropriately upward towards the sky and serving no purpose. Uplight washes out the night sky and reduces opportunities for astronomers and star-gazer to enjoy the beauty of the planets, moon and stars.

Light Clutter: Poorly planned, confusing and unpleasant use of grouped lights usually associated with urban or retail lighting. Retail business often trying to outdo the competition by using overly bright, multicolored or pulsating lights.

Links to articles & information on light pollution:

http://news.discovery.com/animals/light-pollution-a-growing-problem-for-wildlife.html

www.darksky.org/assets/documents/is001.pdf

www.njaa.org/light.html

www.skymaps.com/articles/n0109.html

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution

ngm.nationalgeographic.com/geopedia/Light_Pollution      

The Unworldly Splendor of Oregon’s Painted Hills.

If you would like to see an alternative format in the graphic design of some of the following multimedia presentations, please see our new site at— http://ScienceTechTablet.wordpress.com

Photo/video and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

The sun had just set as I arrived at my friend’s condominium on Lake Washington near Seattle. Rick was loading camera equipment into his SUV, Ford Escape — a gasoline-electric hybrid, which holds the honor of being one of the first American-built hybrids.

We had a long drive ahead, which required us to drive all night before reaching our destination in the high desert of Central Oregon. It was a cool, but clear, May evening, as the SUV climbed steadily up to Snoqualmie pass. After cresting the Cascade Mountains we descended into a dryer, warmer Eastern Washington. After a few hours of driving the glow from a near full moon was illuminating the desert sagebrush outside the town of Goldendale on the Columbia River.

Wind turbines above the Columbia River are lit by the moon.

Our adventure to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, was planned to coincide with a full moon for illuminating the surreal Painted Hills. Rick and I use digital cameras, featuring full-sized image sensors and fast optical lenses, which are ideal for capturing low light environments. Taking the opportunity to harness some moonlight as it rose above the Columbia Gorge, we made a stop to photograph wind turbines. These wind gathering  monoliths, heavily populate this section of Washington and Oregon. The site is ideal for wind farms, due to the wind tunnel conditions created by compressed airstreams forcefully moving through the constricted Gorge.   

Standing next to a colossal tower is a strange experience. These massive wind catchers are the largest machines you’ll probably encounter on land. And the eerie sounds caused from wind moving massive propeller blades takes some time getting use to.

Driving on the Washington side of the Columbia River and continuing into Oregon, you see legions of wind turbine sentinels as they constantly harvest the restless winds. It takes an hour of driving south on the highway before we see fewer and then suddenly… no steel towers flanking our drive.

Now what I become aware of is not seeing any cars traveling in either direction of a deserted looking highway. Eastern Oregon’s vast size can’t be appreciated unless you spend some time touring its sprawling, unpopulated counties.

After traveling all night and encountering some falling snow as the hybrid SUV started ascending the road to the high desert—we finally entered into the realm of the primeval Painted Hills. It’s totally dark now that the moon had set hours earlier, cloaking the desert from our view in all directions. Fatigued from hours of driving, we pull into a remote area to catch a couple of hours of sleep before our video and photography expedition can begin.

The John Day Fossil Bed National Monument is organized into three Units; the Painted Hills is the third Unit, which contains 3,132 acres of wildlife, plants and some unusual geology.

Over millions of years, layers of ash from nearby volcanic eruptions mixed with clay. Through the process of erosion, intense surreal hues and patterns of color explode in every direction.

The following morning was a like waking up in some eye-candy dreamland. The colors just popped out at you like viewing a TV monitor, with the hue saturation cranked up high.  Stunned by the startling beauty, I grabbed my video camera on a tripod and began shooting panorama footage. Attempting to capture the details of the environment, an external microphone was used to record the outburst of chattering songbirds, which had woken up to announce the beginning of a new day.

My first impression was of being overwhelmed by sensory overload — it was challenging to take in all the colors, sounds and surreal shapes of the textured topography. What I was seeing, appeared to be out of this world — like viewing some futuristic post cards of a terraformed Martian landscape.

What I remembered from earlier road trips to the Southwest, was how striking the Painted Desert in Arizona was — that location now seemed pale in comparison to the Painted Hills.  What makes the geology of this site so vivid is the saturated colors, caused by a series of volcanic eruptions, taking place over millions of years. The accumulation of layers of ash, dust and clay mixed together from relentless years of erosion to form the hills of strata of colors, like some massive layered cake.

What remains buried beneath the volcanic soil is a time-capsule preserving the fossilized carcasses of mammals and plants, which lived in the region during the  Cenozoic Era —the Age of Mammals. This era began roughly 65 million years ago, so this National Monument is a target rich environment for paleontologist studying fossils from that era.

After I shot about an hour worth of video from the spot from the spot I started from, it was time to scout other dramatic locations.  Not too far into our drive we spotted a family of graceful antelopes, casually grazing in a large field. Apparently, from talking with one of the NPS Rangers, this National Monument is teeming with indigenous wildlife including: bears, cougars and eagles.

Latter in the afternoon we stopped at the side of a gravel road to take in a stunning view of  one of the larger hills at the site.  The clouds above were opening and closing like a massive shutter on a spotlight — producing lighting effects which were irresistible. We set up tripods along with our video and still cameras to begin shooting right away.

Shortly after we setup shop, a ranger pulled up close to the SUV and was intently watching us. Rick and I shrugged as we looked at each other with a shrug, thinking perhaps we had unknowingly parked in a restricted area. Eventually the ranger introduced himself, he had the impression we were part of a National Park Service video crew, which was schedule to be doing work at the Monument.  We were invited to join his walking tour with a group of  photographers into a restricted area of the Painted Hills.  As it turned out, this special photography tour only takes place one weekend out of the entire year —when the John Day chaenactus (a bright yellow wild flower) begins to bloom, then as quickly as it appears—it begins to fade away.

The photographer’s tour was visually fantastic and can only be experienced under the supervision of an NPS Ranger.  The plant life is so fragile here, you’re only allowed to  walk inside a dried out creek bed while touring this area.  The Ranger was gracious enough to allow me to interview him about the site.  Wind is common and unpredictable in this high desert area, so I came prepared with a wind guard on my microphone; but I did experience a few audio dropouts,  hopefully you’ll be able to hear the main message clearly enough.

Later that evening we photographed the landscapes using a full moon for our lighting. I’ve never seen greater clarity of the stars and moon from this high desert environment, which created a great backdrop for an unearthly landscape. We photographed throughout the night until the light of predawn appeared.

At a little over 2,000 feet in elevation, the high desert can produce cold, bone-chilling weather and as mentioned—windy conditions.  I recommend warm clothing and gloves to help keep your hands comfortable from wind-chill.  For photography, the higher altitude is a great benefit, especially for optical clarity if your focus is on night photography of stars and landscapes.

I definitely plan to go back to the Painted Hills as soon as possible… it’s a dreamlike setting I have rarely experienced, which captivates the senses, with its splendor of stunning colors contained within an unworldly environment. ~

LINKS:

Here’s a link to National Park Service’s John Day Fossil Bed National Monument:   http://www.nps.gov/joda/index.htm

Exploring Etruscan ruins beneath the cliffs of medieval Orvieto, Italy.

 

     

Etruscan ruins under cliffs of the citadel of Orvieto

                                               

                       

Etruscan art presented in Orvieto museum.

Woman holding an umbrella during a rainy day in Orvieto, within Umbria region of Italy.

Photos and text by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Please note this story is designed to be a work in progress. New text and photos may be added at anytime. You’re invited to view the photos and read the essay as is. Thank you for your interest —to enrich the interactive nature of this story you’re encouraged to contribute with suggestions, questions or comments.

 —We boarded a train in Venice with just a few days remaining of a three-week adventure in Italy.  Our coach moved steadily from its station, with the island city quickly vanishing from view.  Soon my wife and I were transported into the countryside, which gave us fleeting panoramic views of charming Italian landscapes.  My mind wandered, trying to imagine what intriguing encounters we would find waiting for us at our next destination.

While the train traveled deeper into the center of the countryside, gray sky’s hung low overhead as morning turned into afternoon.  Undecided of our next destination, we took a chance to stay in a mysterious fortress city, perched on cliffs, within the region of Umbria.

We had engaging conversations with an Italian couple, who were traveling to Naples with their young children.  The youthful husband was born in Naples; his profession was a train engineer for the Italian rail network. His charming wife was blond, with blue eyes, and Norwegian born. Both husband and wife spoke fluent English.  We exchanged information and ideas about many subjects on world culture, technology and comparing educational systems.  Time went quickly as we used most of it in dialogue with our newfound friends, but soon we had to prepare to deboard at our intended destination.  As the train slowed down to stop I caught a glimpse through the clouds, of a mysterious town perched on cliffs,  appearing as if it were floating in clouds. We had arrived below the ancient town of Orvieto, and instantly became intrigued of its mysterious  atmosphere.   

This was a location we had penciled in as possible place to spend our 5th wedding anniversary.  Before flying to Europe, we visited the office of Rick Steves, an America’s authority of European travel.  His business is in a nearby town of Edmonds, located next to the Puget Sound.  We bought one of his books and attended a seminar on Italian travel in which the medieval town of Orvieto came up.  Steves mentioned this place was a refreshing one to visit, as tourist travel had not yet overrun it.  The tip was spot-on and there were few tourist in town compared to busy Venice where we just came from.  Rick Steves is an iconic figure in the travel industry and it’s remarkable how well he’s revered throughout Italy.  Whenever I mentioned his name to hotel workers, they smiled and had positive words to say about him and his organization.

Poster promoting a performing arts event in Orvieto, Italy.

Because we were traveling off-season, we found without reservations, a wonderful hotel just outside of the medieval township of Orvieto.  The hotel had a shuttle to take us up the steep road leading to the town, which resembled a fortress citadel on top of a volcanic butte.

In ancient times this bastion had been the capital city of the Etruscan Civilization, predating the Roman Empire by centuries.  On my agenda was to explore the remaining Etruscan ruins, located at the base of the massive cliff stronghold.  To better understand the past, our plan was to do a walking tour of Orvieto, to see if there were any impressions still remaining from its ancient ancestors.

Arriving on top of a dramatic plateau, we were greeted by vast panoramas stretching in all directions. There are no shortages of striking views, which any past tribal or clan leaders would have recognized as strategic in value.  Bellow is rich fertile green valleys stretching outwards to distant foothills.  Nature would have a challenge constructing any better fortification than this volcanic butte, with its solid ring of 100′ foot sheer cliffs. From this vantage point it was clear why this site was chosen… location, location, location!

Returning to the interior of Orvieto we found a small neighborhood with an interesting subterranean museum.  Once inside, the steps descends rapidly in a winding cavern naturally formed into the porous tuff volcanic stone.  Dim light with damp smells created an environment  which hasn’t changed in thousands of years. This was ground zero of where this settlement’s roots developed. In prehistoric times this cave provided protection from the elements, attacks from aggressors–both man or beats and it provided a continuous fresh water supply.  Latter the Etruscan used the grotto for religious ceremonies and eventually carved out passages for escape routes leading outside of the walled city.

I’ve always liked the experience of exploring caves.  As a young teenager, I lived in California’s Mojave Desert, not far from Joshua Tree National Monument.  My brother Jim and I would explore natural caves and man-made gold mines; while enjoying the cool, moist air which was a relief from the scorching desert air outside.

My wife and I found this fascinating setting for our fifth wedding anniversary dinner, named Le Grotte del Funaro.  Enclosed in a natural grotto the restaurant featured windows cut through stone walls to view the valley bellow.  This place was like out of a location scout’s, central-casting dream, except it was authentically medieval.  The meals served were exceptionally fine—Italian seafood cuisine—paired with fantastic regional wines.  Any-one traveling to Italy knows how remarkably delicious and distinctive the food from each region is.  Realizing it was a special occasion for us, the restaurant staff gave us a wonderful dinning experience we will always cherish.

Italian hospitality is some of the best in the world. The people of this country are so gracious and accommodating, its no wonder celebrities such as George Clooney have chosen to live in Italy.

A large stone manor sat on a hill next to our hotel. It looked centuries old and I couldn’t tell from where we were, if it was still occupied.  Employees working at the hotel shrugged their shoulders when asked if they knew anything about the place.  It seemed as if the estate had been there so long, it just blended into the background and was ignored.

While traveling by rail or car, throughout Italy you see a landscape dotted by buildings centuries old, some are abandoned in various states of disrepair.  These orphaned stone structures intrigued me because they stood the test of time and all had stories to tell.  Finally an opportunity presented itself, to quench my curiosity of exploring one of these ancient sites.

Lounging farm animals near Orvieto, Italy.

I walked over a mile on a winding road, through rustic farm country. Following a dirt path uphill, past plowed fields, I came face to face with what was once a grand estate with a marvelous view.

The building was clearly abandoned, in disrepair with sections of walls missing, allowing for flocks of pigeons to fly out of its exposed interiors.  Cautiously walking into an entry; I considered each step taken between mounds of debris, to ascend a crumbling stairway.  At the top of the

flight of stairs a series of makeshift catwalks followed second story walls.

Carefully balancing myself with one hand holding my camera and the other holding parts of the building, I took a series of photos throughout the building.

                                                                         

Once back on terra-firma, I found a basement wall with iron bars on it.  The room appeared designed to either keep people out or possibly in.  Whether it could have been a storehouse for valuables or a jail for criminals, its dark entrance into the basement looked to foreboding for me to consider exploring  without a flashlight.  On the other side of the estate was a large kitchen with a wood oven and portions of a table still holding utensils. After taking several more photographs from various angles, I retreated back to the road and leisurely walked to the hotel for a rest from my solo adventure.

  Orvieto has an intriguing urban context with the way stone streets, buildings and neighborhoods are laid-out.  In some places the town resembles a maze, so we took advantage of this and turned it into a fun game—to just walk and explore new places in hopes of getting a little lost, then looking for visual clues to point the way back to a familiar landmark.

                                                        

Etruscan warfare depicted on ancient pottery.

Looking at preserved Etruscan artifacts, it’s apparent they adopted the Greek alphabet and most of this art appears borrowed from classic Hellenic culture.  No major surprise of a dominant cultural influence here, as Greek tribes heavily colonized the Italian peninsula, primarily with the Achaeans beginning in 800 BC.

With the recent popularity of Roman culture being portrayed in Hollywood movies such as: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and STARZ cable series Spartacus: a misunderstanding has developed of where mortal combat began as a “spectator sport.” This brutal form of entertainment certainly didn’t begin in Rome, as many would be led to believe.  The Roman historian Lily, stated it was imported from the Achaeans who colonized the Campania region of southern Italy.  However, the majority ancient historians chronicle its beginnings  as a uniquely Etruscans enterprise from northwestern Italy.

Most ancient historians credit the Etruscan with inventing the blood lust sport of gladiatorial combat.

A series of Etruscan tombs located at the base of Orvieto, Italy

Etruscan tomb used as final resting place for individuals and family members.

A view from guarding walls, which perhaps have not changed in centuries.

What I find  intriguing and especially more so, for my better-half; is the power which Etruscan women held in their culture.  Unlike their Roman and Greek sisters, who were not allowed to freely mingle with the opposite sex or to own property, these women had much more control over their destiny.  It’s surprising the Roman’s question the morality of Etruscan customs, labeling it as scandalous and more promiscuous than their own. This was primarily due to Etruscan women empowerment, who could freely chose their mate, own property and have a say in politics. This concept  equality and of liberation had to wait until the 20th century for many women in the western world.

The beautiful Gothic Duomo of Orvieto, it’s architecture dominating the background.

One of my favorite Duomos (cathedral) of Italy is the stunning Gothic one found in Orvieto.  Construction of this impressive house of worship began in 1290 and it took over three centuries to complete.  Intricate, textured forms of the facade are partly accented with brilliant gold leaf, which projects illuminated light onto viewers even during an overcast day.  A multitude of Biblical scenes are marvelously painted in relief and beautifully incorporated into the dazzling front entrance.

It’s interesting to note the sites of churches and cathedrals in Italy, were once the very same sites used for earlier pagan temples and places of worship.  This practice of building over existing sacred sites has been done since prehistoric times and was continued by the conquering Spanish in the New World — as seen in places where Central and South American indigenous people had previously settled and worshiped.

Duomo di Orvieto – Orvieto, in Umbria region of Italy

For me, Orvieto was the most intriguing of the places we visited in the charming country of Italy. This ancient citadel’s isolated location allowed it to preserve and retain much of its architectural essence and unique character. Orvieto has a sense of mystery that I’ve never experienced in any other place and because of this, I hope to return their soon to explore more of its hidden wonders.

Photo Essay of Pirates Invading the Port of Vallejo.

Photo Essay by: David Johanson Vasquez

 

Summer Greetings,

Some of you know I enjoy photographing examples of diverse and alternative lifestyles, so fortune smiled on me when destiny presented an unusual treasure.

On a summer’s eve one June, I journeyed to Central California and explored some northern cities of the San Francisco Bay Area. Sonoma County, with its savory wine country, was one of our day-trip destinations.  However, we diverted the plan just north of Walnut Creek, which pointed us in another direction; as we heard tale of a pirate festival being hosted in the port city of Vallejo, on the Bay north of San Francisco.

Amazingly, after getting a little lost entering Vallejo, luck was with us as we found parking next to the park where the festivities were in full progress. The sound of canons being fired in volleys led us to this unlikely gathering. Yes, just as you can imagine, hundreds of swashbuckling, pistol-packing pirates, consuming liberal amounts of distilled spirits were all there.  A pious lot the buccaneers were not, and much to our relief, they were still courteous enough and not too threatening to non-pirates, as our group had not come prepared with a single eye-patch or parrot among us. Pirate Festival Vallejo, CA June 20, 2009

 

 

 

 

Pirate Festival Vallejo, CA June 20, 2009

 

Most pirate women in attendance prefer the name “wenches” (from the Old English word – wencel,) gave me a new understanding of the term “pirate booty.” Many of these fair maidens used 18 century style clothing, which compressed and contorted the female anatomy in the shapeliest way. My better-half informed me I would definitely be in need of an eye-patch if my camera remained focused on their attributes for too long.Pirate Festival Vallejo, CA June 20, 2009

Pirate Festival Vallejo, CA June 20, 2009The word pirate is such a varied term; it goes back to ancient times of the Phoenicians, when marauders from the sea plagued the Greeks and Romans. References to pirates are found in just about every culture from China and India to the Vikings in Scandinavia. So it was only natural that this gathering of pirates in Northern California would include buccaneers of every size, shape, culture, color and time period, which could be imagined. Even postmodern pirates equipped with cell phones, digital cameras and Mp3 players were all present – socializing and exchanging salutations.

What more can I say about an unexpected adventure experienced within a unique atmosphere other than what I saw? It was one of those rare surreal events that make you ponder – did I really experience that and what century are we living in again?

Here’s to wishing you a summer of smooth sailing.