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      

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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.

Will The Current Solar Storms Hitting Earth, Lead To Lights-out for us by 2013-2014?

Essay and photos by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

 Solar Storm forecast & updates are located above the essay’s first paragraph. These updates will be posted anytime a major solar disturbance is cited. Please read the essay first and return at anytime to view posted updates.

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity
SDF Number 197 Issued at 2200Z on 15 Jul 2012

IA.  Analysis of Solar Active Regions and Activity from  14/2100Z
to 15/2100Z:  Solar activity has been at low levels for the past 24
hours. Region 1520 (S17W48) remains the largest and most
magnetically complex region on the disk, however it has remained
rather stable and quiet. Regions 1521 (S21W60) and 1519 (S17W68) 
have been the most active regions producing low-level C-class
events. Both regions have shown moderate growth in sunspot area and
magnetic complexity. No Earth directed CMEs were observed during
the period.

IB.  Solar Activity Forecast:  Solar activity is expected to be at
low levels with a chance for M-class events for the next three days
(16-18 July).

Friday 13th, 2012— A massive X-Class Solar Flare, which occurred yesterday, is hurling  a coronal mass ejection (CME) towards Earth and will arrive approximately 5:17 A.M. EST according to NASA.  Several events involving this latest solar storm are unusual and are cause for concern: it’s the second massive X-Class (X is the most powerful class of Solar Flares) to take place within a week, the angle of the CME is pointed directly at Earth, potential sighting for the Northern Lights within the southern U.S., NOAA’s forecast is for a mild to moderate  geomagnetic storm on Earth, while NASA predicts a medium to severe storm to occur.

Earlier today, The Washington Post reported  of the conflicting geomagnetic forecast from the leading Federal agencies who monitor solar storms. Today’s events concerning solar storms are matching those cited in the featured February 2012 BPI  essay, indicating early warning of a destructive CME.

NOAA /   Prepared jointly by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA,
 Space Weather Prediction Center and the U.S. Air Force. 3-day Solar-Geophysical Forecast issued Jul 08 22:00 UTC   http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/today.html

Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to be moderate with a chance for X-class events for the next three days (09-11 July).

Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to be mostly quiet on day one (09 July). Quiet to unsettled conditions are expected on day two (10 July), with a chance for isolated active periods due to possible weak effects from the CME observed on 06 July. A return to mostly quiet conditions is expected for day three (11 July).

This year has seen a steady influx of news reports on increased solar storm activity hitting  Earth. Most broadcasts concerning this development is of a less serious kind, featuring its spectacular visual effects, which creates the unworldly, “Northern Lights” or “Aurora Borealis.”  However, a few reports have mentioned necessary cancellations of airline flights using trans-polar flight routes—due to the sun’s disruptive solar flares. Intense solar activity is nothing new, but a recurring event—which has taken place countless times before civilization ever existed on Earth. What’s of concern today is the 11-year peak cycle, of which the sun now is entering, resulting in extreme solar storm activity.  Some solar physicists predict the current cycle of storms may have greater magnitude than any before, including the record solar maximum, chronicled over 150 years ago, in the year of 1859.

Why should anyone care if the solar storm activity becomes more intense than any other time in recorded history?  Simply stated‑‑‑civilization as we know it, could be stopped in its tracks or altered to resemble something not recognizable.

Imagine not being able to turn on lights for illuminating your home or office—communication by phone, email and social media all gone, with no guarantees as to when it could or would be back online. There’s other more challenging issues regarding basic food production and distribution. The cited scenarios are extreme, but are possible consequences from a major solar storm. These intense solar disruptions are known as a “coronal mass ejection” (CME), which could knockout virtually any technology, requiring electricity.  This event could take away most of the technology we depend on and ironically transport our way of life back to the time when the last great CME hit.

If you had a window, which peered back-in-time to the end of August, 1859; you’d see a developing western society on track with an industrial revolution in full-motion.  Harnessing the new wonders of steam energy was nearly complete, however, electrical energy barely had reached its first phase of infancy.  Few applications for electricity existed, except for a remarkable one in the form of instant communication.  By sending electrical pulses through copper wires to a remote electromagnetic receiver, messages were transmitted instantly over great distances. The telegraph could be considered a 19th century equivalent of today’s Internet. This system used a basic, universal binary code developed primarily by the American artist, Samuel F.B. Mores.  By the mid 19th century, scientist demystified electricity’s secrets, and inventors found ways to harness it for communication using “direct current.”

As the summer heat of September approached the northern hemisphere: a series of solar storms increased with startling intensity; producing extreme Northern Lights, which appeared in unlikely places, such as the Caribbean near the equator.  Inhabitants reported in Northeastern America of using the intense Northern Lights to read newspapers with, during the dark hours of night.  Other stories mention groups of people being awakened by this strange, bright light and believing it was actually morning.  All over the World, compasses used for navigation (the rough equivalent of today’s GPS) were no longer giving accurate readings as the Earth’s geomagnetic forces were being distorted by the solar storms energy.

Sunspots were first documented by Galileo in the 17th century, these solar disturbances contribute to solar storms.

Sunspots on the sun’s surface, contributes to forming solar storms, of which Galileo had first observed in the 17th century and by 1745 solar flares were well documented.  Up until 1859, the solar storms only known effects on humans were in producing dazzling display of cosmic fireworks, located far into the northern and southern hemispheres.

The uninformed, industrial age public had no reason for concern as the peak of the solar storm began arriving on September 1st and 2nd.  These extreme, violent sun flares, hurled enormous magnetic clouds of plasma into space, known as a—coronal mass ejection (CME). This CME solar storm became known as the Carrington Event, named for a British astronomer, who first recognized and identified its geomagnetic effects on Earth.

Solar ejections normally take three to four days before reaching Earth, but this extreme burst had a hyper-velocity, which took less than 18-hours for the shock waves to compress the Earth’s protective magnetic field.

 As a surge of solar electromagnetic energy overpowered and broke through part of the Earth’s own protective magnetic field, alarming events began happening.  First, came a series of random, garbled telegraph signals being picked up—which mysteriously, had not been sent by an operator—then reports of telegraph receivers violently bursting into flames —setting secondary fires to office papers along with telegraph lines themselves. Jolts of electricity nearly electrocuted some operators while attempting to disconnect the system’s electrical batteries; even with their disconnection, frenetic signals continued out-of-control from massive energy overflows—the geomagnetic super-storm was sending dangerous charges of electricity through a vast network of copper lines. The geomagnetic storm caused by the sun, devastated an emerging communication infrastructure and severely set back its development.

This record solar storm event appeared on the scene, well before societies and industries realized electricity’s great potential—unlike today with electricity as an essential necessity in just about every part of the technology we use and take for granted today.

Until recently, I’ve always looked forward to the Northern Lights dazzling arrival. I recall my first  Aurora Borealis encounter shortly after graduating from college, while on a road trip to the Olympic Rain Forest. Camping out in the Olympic Mountains, the northern sky began glowing at twilight with vivid illuminating curtains moving until they were flashing directly overhead. I kept watching the surreal specters until they exited out of view an hour later.

The next time I viewed these mysterious lights happened on a photography assignment to the “North Slope” oil fields, located above Alaska’s arctic circle. The Earth’s natural magnetic field, which protects the planet from much of the sun’s solar radiation, is weakest near the Earth’s polar regions; allowing for solar winds to enter and interact with our atmosphere to create the Aurora—this is why the cosmic lights are viewed while looking north, in the northern hemisphere and the reverse for the southern hemisphere.  

Captivated by the up-close experience of the Aurora’s light; I endured the extreme outside temperature which was minus 40 degrees.  Facing frigid arctic weather, I photographed the light show, until the springs controlling my camera’s shutter began to freeze up.

Actually today’s digital cameras make it easier to photograph the northern lights.  Digital cameras, especially high-end, professional versions are much more low light-sensitive than film camera were and have a better tonal-dynamic-range.  My all-time-favorite Northern Lights experience was in Eastern Washington, where I was at a ranch in the Okanogan region.  This encounter was so full of effervescent bright light, it woke up birds from a night sleep as they began to take flight while making loud, chirping sounds as if dawn had arrived. In this environment, with no light-pollution from a city, while located at a 5,000 foot elevation, made for an ideal night-sky photography experience.

In 2003 was one of the greatest solar flare events in contemporary history —the Northern Lights were so intense, I easily photographed them from my home in Western Washington.   Despite the bright lights coming from a nearby city, they did not obscure the luminous Aurora Borealis view. The referenced photos of the Northern Lights were taken from my home, are featured in this essay.  In these images you can see the glowing transient—green, red and purple color produced, as the sun’s energy interacts with various gas elements which comprise the Earth’s atmosphere.

The reason for solar flare events to peak in 2013 or possibly in early 2014, is due to the sun’s magnetic field reversing polarity within an 11-year cycle.  It takes a full 22-years for the sun’s magnetic fields to return to their original pole positions, which then completes a full cycle. Apparently, near the 11-year cycle, which our sun has entered, the solar flare activity becomes more intense.

The 1859 record solar maxim was on one of these 11 years cycles. Another theory connected with returning mammoth CMEs is the high quantity of sunspots recorded over the past couple of decades.  Sunspots appear when portions of our star’s internal superheated matter, mixes with cooler regions above the surface; creating intense magnetic fields. These magnetic fields are swept up, and then forced below the surface, where they become recycled by the sun’s complex quantum mechanics.  Energy from sunspots becomes amplified, creating even more extreme magnetic fields as they resurface form a four or five-year subsurface journey.  These magnetic disturbance interact to create concentrated arcs of solar energy, which are so powerful they are ejected outward in the form of solar flares.

Other methods scientist use for estimating the potential scale of this year’s solar storms is to examine recent solar cycles—looking for progressive trends or patterns for their projections.

In 1989 a CME hit the Earth with intense energy particles, causing the electrical grid in Quebec, Canada, to crash, which plunged millions of people into darkness.  This event took place during the “cold war” and it caused severe shortwave radio disruptions with Aurora Borealis sightings in south Texas.  Some believed the disruption was the beginning of a Soviet nuclear first strike, using intense electromagnetic energy to disrupt communications and electric grid infrastructure.  In reality the blackout was caused by a CME, created from the  sun’s own nuclear energy.  Acting like a giant teetering domino, the event triggered a chain reaction, taking down interconnecting electric networks within a large region of North America—but even this event was not on a scale with the mega storm of 1859.  That’s why some scientist view the 30-year old, Hydro-Quebec solar storm as a telegraphed alarm warning.

With demand for power growing even faster than the grids themselves, modern networks are sprawling, interconnected, and stressed to the limit—a recipe for trouble, according to the National Academy of Sciences:The scale and speed of problems that could occur on [these modern grids] have the potential to impact the power system in ways not previously experienced.” There’s fear the expanded network of lines creates a bigger antenna enabling it channel a geomagnetic induced current (GIC.)  NASA has become alarmed with how much more vulnerable the North American power grid has become, it co-developed an experimental program called “Solar Shield” to help warn utilities of impending geomagnetic storms.

Since 1989 we have become much more dependent on microelectronics, with their intricate architecture of high density, compressed components.  Having unshielded microcircuits squeezed tightly together increases the odds of severe damaged caused from geomagnetically induced currents (GICs).  The 1989 solar storm event damage at least 30 satellites, some  of which were beyond repair.  Solar storms can easily scramble the intricate digital components of low-orbit satellites and disorient them from knowing which way is up or down.

In theory, with enough warning, orbiting satellites are safely switched off or pointed away from the sun’s destructive radiation.  Early warning satellites are now positioned at a L1 point, geostationary orbit to monitor solar storms and announce threatening CME activity.  Solar Shield Project is a collaboration between NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).  The purpose of this project is for establishing a forecasting system, which can be used to lessen the impact of geomagnetically induced current (GIC) on high-voltage power transmission systems. (Please see associated link bellow for more information.)

The Earths atmosphere and magnetic fields normally protects us from the harmful solar storm’s radiation.  Higher exposure to the sun’s powerful energy becomes a factor once you start climbing in elevation. Radiation exposure is a secondary reason why airlines must divert from their trans-polar routes, to avoid excessive exposure.

Disruption of GPS and radio communication from the solar storms is the primary reason for flight diversions.  Astronauts working above Earth’s protective atmosphere face the greatest risk from such effects caused from solar flares. These stellar storms have shortened or alter a number of space missions in the past. The Russian’s space station MIR in 1993 had an unfortunate encounter with a solar storm, exposing the cosmonauts to dangerous levels of over 10 times the normal allowable radiation limits.                              

What could be warning signs or likely indicators of an impending maxim solar disturbance?  So far, NASA and NOAA are the only government agencies I’m aware of who’s keeping the public informed with the most current status of solar flares.

At the end of this essay are links, which give important information on this year’s solar storms including: NASA and NOAA sites, which monitor hourly conditions. If solar storm activity becomes alarming, NASA will most likely be out front with the reports and major news networks will probably soon follow.  If a certain threshold of (x-rays) is reached within the first phase of a major solar storm, the FAA will order cancellations of airlines with trans-polar flights.  Disruption of shortwave radio communication is the earliest indicator of a severe storm.  If conditions become dire, all but emergency flights would be grounded indefinitely.

 - Image courtesy of NASA

– Image courtesy of NASA

If NASA issued orders to evacuate astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS), this would probably be a strong indicator the radiation levels from the second phase of a storm are severe. Supposedly the center of the Space Station has enough mass to offer some protection from this type of event, but NASA would probably play it safe and order emergency return flights, that is, if there was enough time. Seeing the Northern Lights close to the equator would be a strong indicator the Earth’s geomagnetic fields were being overrun, meaning the big one might be arriving.  If a major CME  (the particle phase of a storm) 752830main_iss036e002224_fullcomes our way, there may be 18 hours or less to prepare.  On the positive side, unlike a major earthquake or other natural disasters we at least would have some time to prepare and be ready to brace for a worst case scenario.

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It would be an unfortunate irony if the sun made our world go dark, but here’s how it could happen. The National Academy of Science produced a 2008 report warning, if we had another major solar storm like the 1859 Carrington event, we would have extensive blackouts with the loss of key transformers.  Our Nation’s electrical utilities have in all total, less than 400 major transformers to supply all the power we use. There are no longer any companies within the U.S., which make massive sized transformers. If an extreme solar maxim arrives, we’ll probably be on a long waiting list (along with the rest of the world) for key replacements. Given enough time, these massive electrical components can be built domestically, but it could take years — a major obstacle and a catch-22 — transformers require huge amounts of electricity for their construction.

Even without a disaster happening, electric utilities face a minimum of two-years from when a major transformer (average cost 4 million dollars) is ordered and finally installed (according to a global, equipment insurance company.) Critical shortages of raw materials and trained workforce for transformer installation contribute to this problem. Hopefully the utility company supplying your community power, learned a lesson from the 1989 Hydro-Quebec blackout. There are preventive strategies to guard against geomagnetic induced current (GIC)—such as a “solid ground system;” which is an industry design to help protect electrical infrastructure from a nuclear induced: electromagnetic pulse (EMP.)

An EMP creates a tremendous amount of electromagnetic energy, similar in some ways to a naturally occurring solar storm CME.  The next best plan for the electric utilities will be to disconnect the power lines from any plant’s key equipment threatened by massive surges of electromagnetic energy.  Just disconnecting lines could prove ineffective if a surge was big enough. The  connecting leads to a transformer could possibly be used as an antenna for attracting the surge of electromagnetic energy.

There is something you can do to protect your own electrical devices from the devastating effects of either a solar CME or a nuclear EMP.  You can easily, with very little cost, build what is known as a Faraday cage to protect your equipment.  For instance for: a radio, cell phone or batteries (all of which are vulnerable to massive electrical surges;) you first wrap the devices in thick plastic like a freezer bag or bubble wrap, then use three layers of aluminum foil to completely wrap the devices so there are no gaps. The plastic acts as an insulator from the metal foil which intern deflects energy.

I’ve include a web link to an electrical engineer’s website who explains the procedures and others for protecting against Solar CMEs or EMPs. You can also do a google search for Faraday cage.  Unplugging your electrical equipment from outlets is a good safety precaution, which ordinarily could protect you against a lighting storms, but will probably not prevent your electronics from being fried from a major CME.  If you remembered what happen to the telegraph system, which was hit by the largest CME in history in 1859, the electromagnetic energy used the unconnected wires from the telegraph as an antenna to channel its force through. Tesla, the great Hungarian born inventor who championed AC electrical power, proved electrical transmission could efficiently be sent through air without using power lines.

One other critical infrastructure which could be devastated from an CME or EMP is major pipelines.  The metal in power-lines an pipelines is a great conductor for geomagnetic energy. Testing has shown electromagnetic surges can effect the controls for monitoring pressure and flow of buried high-pressure pipelines. In Russia, it was found past solar storms have caused severe corrosion effects on some of its pipeline.  Apparently, the corrosion effects is not as much of an issue in the North America because the pipes are manufactured using a more advanced process.

For most civil preparedness involving impending emergencies, it’s best to listen to experts who advise: always have enough: food, water and flashlights on hand to survive what happens after a major natural disaster event occurs.  A good plan for how to keep in contact with family members will be critical if a major solar storm event occurs; especially with an extreme maxim CME, as communication equipment will be toast unless it was properly shielded from the event. Self-reliance is a good policy to help sustain individuals and families from the effects due to a major solar storm or catastrophe. Most  common-sense preparations mentioned in this essay are basics ones every family should have in-place, in case of an earthquake or any major disaster occurrence.

Will a decimating solar storm hit in 2013 or 2014?  No one can forecast for certain how severe this solar maxim will or will not be—however, if there’s enough strength behind the solar storm and its path becomes directly aimed towards Earth, then it could be the greatest challenge civilization has ever faced. Learning from the lessons of history has been an essential part of the human experience—we successfully thrive in the moment by learning from histories past events. This seems so obvious for self-preservation, but it involves a fine-tuned balancing process—between what we carefully choose to forget of painful tragedies, versus remembering our own inspirational triumphs. Ideally, the value of any-type of learning, produces confidence and preparedness for future encounters, situations and events.

Given a solar CMEs disruptive potential, it’s in everyone’s self-interest to judge the potential risk; then have an action-plan to help lessen the life-altering impact from an extreme-act-of-nature.  Personally, I don’t sense any impending doom with this year’s solar maxim.  By doing basic research, to become educated on solar events, I gained knowledge on the potential for some disruption to our infrastructure. With informed awareness, I’m confident I’ve taken the necessary precautions for my family to best be ready for this and any future natural disasters, which may arrive from over the horizon. ~

The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights have been revered and feared by ancient and prehistoric cultures. The phenomena are created from solar winds colliding and interacting with Earth’s atmosphere

Bellow are useful links related to the subject solar storms including official government agencies including: NASA and NOAA.  Other sites and articles include those from: National Geographic, Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor.

You’re encouraged to click on the links below to learn more about solar storms. ↓

A most beautiful video time-lapse of the Aurora Borealis  http://vimeo.com/11407018

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/

http:science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2003/23oct_superstorm/

Solar Shield Project is a collaborative project between NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).  http://ccmc.gsfc.nasa.govAn electrical engineer, who gives great information on how to protect your electrical components from EMP blast, produces this site. He also offers an expert opinion of what to expect will happen to our Nation’s electrical grid, if such an event occurs. http://www.futurescience.com/emp/emp-protection.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/110302-solar-flares-sun-storms-earth-danger-carrington-event-science/

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/Cool-Astronomy/2010/0809/Could-a-solar-storm-send-us-back-to-the-Stone-Age

http://www.flixxy.com/solar-storm-1859.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2012/03/120308-solar-flare-storm-sun-space-weather-science-aurora/

auroras-flights-sun-earth-space-science

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Luminous Beauty of Low-light Photography

Multimedia eLearning by: David Anthony Johanson  © All Rights

David A Johanson is a multimedia specialist, CTE instructor and former Boeing scientific photographer. All images and text were created by the author.

All photographs featured in this photo essay were taken in the Pacific Northwest during the winter season, using low-light, natural illumination. The camera used was a Nikon D700.

As a filmmaker and photographer who uses many forms of light, low-ambient-light has always been a rare delight.  “Magic hour” also know as golden hour, is a term cinematographer’s originated for the holy grail of eye-candy lighting. This dramatic, low-angle light begins minutes before sunset, then dramatically merges into dusk, before entering the realm of twilight.

An enchanting view of Snoqualmie Falls during a record deep freeze. HDR photo technique using a Nikon D700

Magic hour was the gateway for me to explore and develop a passion for this wonderful transcendental light. After sunset, the busy activity of the world begins to wind-down… becoming still, before renewing itself for a new day. When twilight arrives, it presents opportunities to observe and record subtle events, which many of us are not aware of as we dream part of the night away. Digital technology has recently entered a new threshold by producing a select breed of cameras, capable of capturing this marvelous luminosity.

Low angle view of Snoqualmie Falls using HDR technique.

What I relied on before the recent advance in low-light digital imaging is a process termed: HDR photography (High Dynamic Range.)  Basically the technique requires a steady tripod for a camera to take a series of images; typically three to eight exposures are taken of a scene.  At least one image of the scene is under exposed; another exposed for what the camera or light meter indicates as a “correct” exposure, and at least one final, over-exposed image completes the HDR series. The intent is to record the entire range of tonal values, from the subject of interest.

Unlike the human eye, which is our unique window for visualizing the world — most camera light sensors lack the sensitivity to record a wide range of tones within the frame. Typically, if only one exposure is used to record a scene with normal or high contrast, the Camera’s light sensor will compress some tonal values, with tones being lost either in the high or low-end of the scale. HDR photography attempts to solve this limitation by combing multiple exposures to record a more dynamic range of tonal values, which later can be combined to create one image in post-production. The results produced with the HDR process are vivid photographs, which present an image closely resembling our initial impression of a scene. 

Iconic Snoqualmie Falls, encased in ice. HDR photo technique.

Of photo pros I know using HDR applications, Photomatix, has been popular for the past few years. It’s a powerful tool, with flexibility and control to help produce impressive results.  Another favored choice for a HDR app, is found bundled within Adobe’s Photoshop.

An acquaintance recently sent me a YouTube link for promoting Nikon’s HDR software. What I saw featured in Nikon’s video was over processed, over-the-top HDR images.  Perhaps it’s a good app, but the promotion relied on too much eye-candy for my taste. In conversations with fellow photographers and multimedia producers the question becomes — at what point does a skilled technique turn into a gimmick?  Some viewers go gaga for the over processed look, with an image appearing unbelievably surreal, and more suited for an illustration or painting.  As with most pursuits, moderation offers the best results at the end of the day. Taste is all subjective, however, for photography, I prefer an image which retains a photo quality character, versus an over-saturated illustration. Perhaps in our contemporary digital media environment, which presents a constant tsunami of image content, there’s a perceived need to push the limits of effects. Okay, I’m finished with my soapbox moment, of the good, the bad, and ugly use of HDR photography.

I still enjoy using HDR technique, but now more sparingly, since I found a camera capable of producing a dynamic tonal range image,  from a single exposure of low-light environments.

 

 

A parade of snow storms blankets the Pacific Northwest. In-between snow showers, ice sculptures glisten beneath the night stars. Single exposure using a Nikon D700

Occasionally we’ll have powerful snowstorms roar through the Puget Sound area, which presents some exciting, low-light photo opportunities. One evening, at midnight the conditions were perfect for night photography, with crystal clear visibility. Graceful, fast-moving clouds were gliding overhead, then suddenly, an opening appeared to reveal a splendid shimmering of stars from above.

These featured “night snow images” were delightful to capture, as they revealed an enchanting, dreamlike quality to them. The reflective character of snow, also creates a subtle luminosity on the surrounding frozen landscapes. A blend of moon and starlight filtered through shifting openings of clouds, which merged with street lighting to create an infrared-photographic look. All these snow scenes were created from one exposure, made possible by using my low-light Nikon D700 camera.

The night’s stillness sparkles with reflected light.

Winter snow clouds mix with the deep blue night sky. Single exposure using a Nikon D700

Here’s some technical photographic information about low-light photography. Nikon’s D3s is the current leader in high ISO for low-light environments, using the second-generation of full frame, FX sensors. The Nikon D3 and D700 produce the same image quality as each other, with both featuring Nikon’s first-generation full frame, FX sensor cameras.  Surprisingly, Nikon designed the D3s with the same 12+ megabyte resolution as the D3, instead of doubling the amount of mega-pixels. By not inflating the pixel count, it allowed for the same pixel size or “pixel pitch” as the D3 and D700.  Apparently, this matrix extensively increases sensor sensitivity. Currently, FX sensors are the masters of low light by out performing DX sensors by 3 stops.

  If you decide to try low-light night photography, be prepared for challenging conditions and dress to keep warm. Whether you choose to use HDR techniques or single image capture, get ready to discover the wondrous illumination, that low-light photography will reveal to you.

Luminous winter stars prevail and shine through another set of passing clouds. Single exposure using a Nikon D700

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Tribute to A Civic Titan Whose Influence Is Woven Into a Postmodern Pacific Northwest.

Text and photos by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Governor Albert Rossellini with representatives of the Armed Services on Veterans Day 1961.

The first time I met former Governor Al Rossellini was 20 years ago when I photographed him on assignment for the Boeing Company.  It was at Seattle’s City Hall in the early 1990’s where he was meeting with mayor Norm Rice and various other city officials. I remember how warmly he greeted me when I entered the room and how his great smile and enthusiasm could instantly charm, while putting you at ease.

Albert Rossellini was a Democrat Governor for the State of Washington from 1957 to 1965; during an era some historians consider the beginning of postmodern history.  His terms as governor were distinguished by major accomplishments and his résumé would be the envy of any serving governor today.  Rossellini championed foremost regional development of public infrastructure, including expanding of the state highway system, and oversaw construction of the worlds’ longest floating bridge, which spanned Lake Washington.  He was a governor who proved his belief in the value of public education, making every effort to enhance the states’ universities and helped to develop a regional community college system.  Al Rossellini also had a rare, over-the-horizon-vision; which embraced economic development, by creating a state department of commerce which successfully help land the Seattle Worlds Fair in 1962.  Many of Rossellini’s accomplished goals, launched the states’ economic trajectory towards becoming a national and international player, which has been well sustained into the 21st century.

Last January I sat down with former governor Rossellini at a dinner party held for him to celebrate his 101st birthday.  I felt  honored having a conversation with a civic leader whose vision and action helped shape the political/economic dynamics of the Pacific Northwest .  Another distinction I experienced was being in the presence of a centenarian with a great sense of humor, quick wit and enthusiasm for discussing a variety of subjects.  Within just a few months of the dinner party, the unstoppable Al Rossellini would achieve yet another outstanding accomplishment, a record for being the longest surviving governor in United States History!

My brother Jim setup the dinner party at his home to celebrate the governors’ birthday. He’s been a friend of former governor Rossellini for several years now and wanted us all to have an opportunity to celebrate the occasion.  My parents were also invited and in attendance for the governors dinner party.   Towards the end of the event, my dad revealed a photo he had saved for 50 years, it was of governor Rossellini with my dad, along with four other members of the armed services. Written on the back of the photo by a department of defense photographer was: Veterans Day 1961, state capitol, Olympia, Washington.  As  both men reminisced about the event, I grabbed my camera and proclaiming, “here’s a Paul Dorpat moment,” (the name of a photo historian, who shoots the series “Now & Then” of historical montages for the Seattle Times Newspaper.)  Without direction, the senior citizens placed themselves as they had been positioned 50 years ago for the Veterans’ Day photograph.  Some weeks afterwards, I scanned the black & white photograph and compared it to the digital photo I had recently taken at the party. Marveling at the analogue print as a piece of ephemera in my hands; I mused on its value as a recorded fragment from half a century back in-time.  Now the two photographic events, which were separated by decades, are united,  representing  a wonderful continuity of the two men, in their golden years of life.

Governor Albert Rossellini with representatives of the Armed Services on Veterans Day 1961.


                                                                                 

In the contemporary history of Washington State,  Al Rossellini’s accomplishments have served the region exceptionally well and will continue to do so for many years to come.  With Governor Rossellini’s death this week, he will be dearly missed by his loving family, grateful friends and admiring colleagues.  For those in the State of Washington who are not aware of this great civic leader, Albert Dean Rossellini, just take a big look around, his supportive influence is just about everywhere, seamlessly woven into the fabric of our region.

Al was always a fountain of energy, continuing to the very end his devotion of helping a good cause;  perhaps sometime in the future he’ll take a break from his retirement in the sky and send some much-needed advice and vision back to our civic leaders…


Apple’s 1984: A Trifecta of Pure Communication Power

Apple’s 1984:  A Trifecta of Pure Communication Power

Essay by: David Johanson Vasquez ©

With this weeks passing of Apple Computer’s founder, Steve Jobs, I reflect on a single advertising event, which he helped to create one of the greatest ads of all time.

This TV ad still evokes the shock and awe I experienced while viewing it the first time during Super Bowl 18.  The legendary, Apple “1984” commercial launched its new Macintosh PC and created a seismic ripple effect whose good-vibrations are still felt today.  The efforts of three titans converged, to harness their energies for creating what is arguably the greatest ad in television history.  Apple Computer hired Chiat/Day, who in turn tapped director Ridley Scott to produce a visually stunning 30-second blockbuster ad with vivid multi-layers of symbolism.  The spot fascinated millions of viewers and news programs began replaying the ad like a pinball machine ricocheting in overdrive. With Apple’s SB18 TV spot heralded as a stunning success, Chiat/Day won a jackpot prize for its client by inadvertently inventing “event marketing.”  Apple’s 1984 commercial wears a triple crown of success for establishing the company’s vision and making it tangible to the public via a marketing, branding and advertising masterpiece.

Here’s an interesting tipple-play of ironies, the ad was almost pulled from airing due to Apple’s BOD perception of it being too provocative.  It also only aired once in primetime television due to a cease-and-desist letter sent by The Estate of George Orwell for potential copyright infringement of the novel “1984.” Last and perhaps most surprising is the ad’s début and incidentally the only other time of its airing was in Twin Falls, Idaho on December 1983, right before 1:00 a.m. sign –off, to qualify it for entry into award ceremonies for the year.  Like millions of other viewers watching the Apple 1984 ad for the first time, I had Mac envy and this brilliant example of advertising motivated me to become an Apple user to this day.

The Day-After 9/11…Ten Years After

Photos and text by: David Johanson Vasquez  © All Rights Reserved

Probably anyone reading this essay will never forget what they were doing on the day of and the following day-after the World Trade Center attack of 9/11.

An early start on a tragic morning—On September 11, 2001,  I got up early at 5:00 a.m. to begin packing for my fiancé and I’s flight from Seattle to Honolulu. After feeding the cats I made a cup of coffee, while listening to the morning news. It took a moment to register that there was a serious event taking place in New York City. I changed the channel… just to make sure there wasn’t some misreporting of what was happening.  In shock, I moved to wake my fiancé—informing her of something really bad was going to the east coast. We held each other while watching the news, then we began making phone calls to family and friends to see if they were watching what had just happened.

My memory accelerated into reverse, towards my first trip to New York City in 1998.  A cousin had taken me on a well planned tour of Lower Manhattan, where we visited the ‘”Twin Towers” to gain a most fantastic view of the City. Now… I kept wondering if my family and friends were okay in Manhattan… what was going on in their lives at this moment? More news reports of other horrible attacks, then a FAA directive announcement to recall and ground all flights in transit immediately. The information was approaching sensory overload. This situation was escalating into something extremely serious, chances were our wedding plans would be forced to hold, perhaps even indefinitely.

The eerie sound of silence—As evening approached, the directive to ground all aircraft began to create an eerie feeling. Our home, which we purchased just a few months before, is located north of Seattle in the city of Everett. Paine Field, a major regional airport is within a couple of miles of our home and Boeing assembles commercial aircraft there, including the Jumbo 747 as well as its 767 airliner, which were used in the terrorist attacks earlier that day.

What was so strange, was the silence of not hearing any aircraft sounds going overhead.  This somber stillness created a feeling straight out of a science fiction movie—in fact I notice a sustained absence of  any sounds; no car noise or people outside talking — as if the world was standing still within a vacuum. I forced myself from thinking… the years when I was a Boeing photographer, if I had photographed one of the 767 aircraft during its production cycle,  which had been used in the terrorist attacks.

Suspended animation — As the afternoon turned into evening, fighter jets appeared in the sky, pacing back and forth like a cat waiting to pounce on its pray. Later as night approached we could hear the steady high altitude drone of bombers and military transport aircraft flying towards Canadian airspace—heading north for an apparent polar route to reach intended deployments; it was obvious now, our nation was going to war.

I stayed up late to see if there would be other information, to let us know if airline flights were to resume. Having slept very little, I got up before light, preparing to depart for our pre-wedding flight to Honolulu.  As dawn arrived there was no definite news as to if flights would be resuming again; so we picked up my stepdaughter Dena, her husband Dave and son to go to the airport.

On the drive to Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, I recall our grandson Jacob asking why was our nation attacked, but none of us had an answer to offer which made sense.  Arriving at the airport was that returning feeling of, stepping into a set of some sci-fi feature, troops and police packing machine guns were on sentry;  just about everyone we saw looked like they were in a daze. One of my best friends I had known since we first met as Boeing photographers, came up and gave us the airline flight status. Rick and his wife Kathy had arrived the day before, to fly out for our wedding, but the 9/11 attacks halted all flights before they could board their plane.

It now was clear, no one would be flying for the foreseeable future, so we had our party of family and friends meet us at a nearby restaurant for a dialogue on an action plan. We decide to try postponing our wedding for one month, then, hopefully all of us would be able to fly out to Hawaii for our planned ceremony.

The resumed flight to paradise — In October we followed through with our wedding plans.  Our ceremony took place outside of Honolulu, on a beach, which was used in a famous kissing scene in the 1953 classic: “From Here to Eternity,” — starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. A month after the 9/11 attacks, we were some of the first travelers to arrive in Hawaii from the mainland.  The hotel’s front desk shared with us — how for the first few days following the attacks, most tourist did not leave their rooms for days… they just wanted to watch any news updates from television.

The shadow of judgement—The weeks following 9/11, I recall experiencing some undue scrutiny from a few strangers who gave hostile stares at me, due to my “Mediterranean appearance.” Part of my family heritage is Panamanian and the other Swedish; so if someone was judgmental and didn’t know anything about my background  — they might ignorantly try to project they’re suspicious spotlight onto me. We often forget of this misguided act of— “terrorism in the name of religion” — no one has suffered more wrongful deaths and injury than innocent Arab people, from many nations of the world.  The terrorist attacks were carried out by an extremely small group of people… representing their own narrow, hate consuming judgments towards the United States.  Blind-ignorance about our Nation’s true values, misguided the terrorist to believe attacks would succeed in crushing our will and faith. Actually, the 9/11 attacks created the opposite effect of what the Islamic Fascist’s intended goals were— it challenged us as a Nation to become a united people and use our collective-will to counter the terrorist’s misanthropic agenda.

Tour of tower two—In my 1998 tour of the World Trade Center’s tower two, I was first impressed with a beautiful water fountain sculpture at the base of the towers. Looking directly upwards, over a thousand feet towards the blue sky, the vertical lines of the twin towers appeared to merge together.

          

My cousin, Randy and I entered the towers to register for a trip to the Top of the World Observatory… we were clustered together with a group of about 20 people. All of us were going to the top floors, but first, a digital photo was taken of our group. Three uniformed security personnel were focused in on the monitors, studying the biometric photos, which were just taken of our group. Five years before, in 1993 the first terrorist attacks on the twin tower were carried out.  Since those previous attacks, the port authority used digital biometric surveillance in efforts for spotting terrorist attempting reconnaissance for another attack.

A community within itself—Once we de-boarded from a  thousand foot elevator ride to the 107th floor, I was impressed with a feeling of energy created by simultaneous activity and interaction. It was like a community within itself, with so many people of different nationalities speaking a variety of languages. I also recall a splendid collection of art on the walls, gift shops, information kiosk and exhibit displays.  Wonderful aromas of gourmet food wafted through the hallways from the famous “Windows of the World” restaurant, which had until the 2001 attacks, the highest-grossing revenue in the United States.     

A view from top of the world— Stepping onto the 110 floors “Top of the World” observation deck gave a feeling of sensory overload—a stunning, 360 degree panorama view of the surrounding mega metropolis was a powerful encounter. Just the week before, as I flew over New York City’s Manhattan districts, I experience something totally new from flying over an urban center. My impression was the city of New York is literally, a living entity in its own right. The metropolis’ massive size, density and texture appeared to have a unique personality… a consciousness of its own, which I wasn’t expecting to encounter.  Back on the observation deck, it was a photographer’s paradise for incredible aerial views of the City’s iconic architecture.

Twin towers architectural design—Completed in 1973, the twin towers were designed by a Seattle born architectMinoru Yamasaki was a first-generation Japanese American, whose innovative architecture style was used to design—The Pacific Science Center, for “The Century 21 Exposition/1962 Seattle Worlds Fair,” which shares similar design elements with the twin towers. Yamasaki also designed one of Seattle’s most daring pieces of architecture— the Rainier Tower, which is supported by a gravity defying, inverted pedestal! One more connection with the twin towers and Seattle is the architect’s, IBM Building design, which was used as a model for the NYC twin tower design. The twin towers architectural style is gothic modernism which can be seen used in most of Minoru’s designs (please see examples of gothic modernism elements in the photographs below.)

          

Inspiration found from the rising phoenix— It’s nearly 9:00 p.m. PDT on September 10th, as I’m finishing up my writing for the photo essay; “The Day After 9/11 – Ten Years After.”  I just finished watching an unexpected, major fireworks display, from our home’s second story window. It was coming from the town of Mukilteo, which is on Puget Sound, next to the Boeing Plant and Paine Field Airport.  Watching the pyrotechnic display, the words of our national anthem came to mind. In an instant, came an insight for me… a silver lining taken from our nation’s tragic sacrifice—illuminating a message from the darkness, like a powerful roman candle roaring upwards to the heavens as it releases spectacular multicolored content.

Despite a tragic attack, which Francis Scott Key refers to in tribute anthem for our country—  we, as in the spirit of our nation’s flag, are still here, firmly remaining strong and defiant.  Now, as New York City’s Freedom Towers are nearing completion, with their foundation next to the footprint of those former shinning twin towers, the spirit of our Nation is rising from the tragic ashes… to reach towards the heavens, once again.  ~

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