Will Halloween 2015, Truly Be The Scariest Until 2027?

A photo illustration featuring an arc of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) entering the Earth's orbital path. — Photo illustration: D a v i d J o h a n s on

A photo illustration featuring an arc of potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) entering the Earth’s orbital path. Note the dominant 108 million year old crater on the Moon’s southern hemisphere, believed caused by an asteroid fragment from 298 Baptistina. The TychoCrater is named after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546 —1601) – Photo illustration: D a v i d  A   J o h a n s o n

Multimedia eLearning program produced by:  D a v i d  A  J o h a n s o n  © 

The author is a multimedia photographer, CTE instructor and a former Boeing scientific photographer. For an alternative graphic presentation of this program, please visit: http://sciencetechtablet.wordpress.com

Last night I was inspired to take photos of a dramatic moonrise appearing above the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest. It was an exceptionally clear evening, which enabled the luminous clarity of the moon to reveal its turbulent history recorded in a textured topography of asteroid craters.

In fact, the Earth shares some frightening historic parallels with all of its neighboring planets within our solar system. Indeed, of all the world’s collateral past and future events, it is the asteroid or comet nemeses which present a potential close encounter of the worst kind!

Ignorance Is Bliss

Since the beginning of time, on a nearly daily basis, these threatening extraterrestrial objects known as asteroids have come perilously close (relative in celestial distance) to our planet Earth. NASA scientists developed a method of categorizing Near Earth Objects (NEO) for tracking the orbital path of asteroids and comets. The space agency’s Near-Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program, often referred to as “Spaceguard” tracks and catalogs celestial objects coming to within 30 million miles (96,560,400 kilometers) of Earth. Ground and space-based telescope resources are used for increased surveillance and tracking of these unwelcome space nomads.

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) is what NASA currently uses for its parameters to gauge an asteroid’s potential impact threat to the Earth. If an asteroid is projected to travel within the moon and Earth’s orbit, it’s considered a potentially Earth-impact threat and depending on its specific trajectory, it is then placed into groups (Athen, Apollo Amor) for enhanced analysis. If a PHA were detected, it should not be assumed that an eminent Earth-collision is about to happen, however, underestimating or ignoring this catastrophic potential could lead to an early and permanent retirement of most life on Earth.

NASA illustraion

NASA illustration

Blinded By The Light of Day

On February 15, 2013 the asteroid 367943 Duende was long-predicted to approach and pass dangerously close to Earth. On that morning, just after sunrise near Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia a 20 meter sized meteor exploded as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere from a shallow angle. A radiant superbolide meteor blast occurred at an elevation of just under 30 km (18 miles) creating an intense light brighter than the Sun.

The estimated energy released was equivalent to approximately 500 kilotons of TNT, upwards of 30 times the explosive energy of the atomic bomb detonated above Hiroshima. Regional hospitals treated approximately 1,500 people for injuries and at least 7,000 buildings were damaged in half a dozen cities as an indirect result of the meteor’s shock wave.

A valuable lesson learned from the Chelyabinsk event was exemplified in the heroic actions of a grade school teacher who instinctively had her students duck and cover as the flash of piercing light first appeared. The children were unharmed, however the instructor was severely injured by flying glass caused by the meteors powerful shock wave. Accordingly, most of the fifteen individuals injured in the event were cut by flying glass from blown out windows.

The Chelyabinsk asteroid literally snuck under the radar as not all 15 meters wide, near-Earth objects are tracked and catalog. The trajectory of the asteroid aligned so close to the Sun that it was not visible to the instruments responsible for locating such objects.

Within 16 hours after this unexpected event, the forecasted asteroid 367943 Duende perilously flew past Earth by 27,700 km without incident. In the days that followed, there were increased sightings of bright meteors streaking through the night sky. International space agencies and sources concluded that due to the two celestial objects divergent trajectories, they could not possibly be related. Consequently, this event illustrates how unprepared the World community currently is for developing essential contingencies to mitigate the range of potential dangers that asteroids present.

NASA Illustration

NASA Illustration

A Sobering Series Of Events

By coincidence, the Chelyabinsk event is cited as the second largest asteroid to impact the Earth’s atmosphere in recorded history. The larger, 1908 Tunguska event was caused from a 50 meter wide asteroid strike, which detonated at a 28,000 foot elevation. In an instant this event leveled approximately 800 square miles of Siberian forest that contained 80 million trees. The subsequent fireball is estimated to have released the energy equivalent of 185 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

The mother of all meteors to have collided with the Earth is the infamous Chicxulub asteroid, which impacted Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula 65 − 66 million years ago. This mammoth asteroid caused a 10 mile wide crater and was from a 60 km (37.28 mile) fragment associated with the larger 170 km wide parent bodyIt is estimated the Chicxulub impactor released the equivalent 100 teratons of TNT, which also qualifies as the largest explosion to happen on the planet. This asteroid’s impact is credited with the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, causing the worldwide extinction of most dinosaurs.

Size Does Matter

To put the potential horrific effects of asteroids into perspective, we can use past asteroid encounters to determine the likely scale of catastrophic damage that would likely occur.

Image result for symbol for an asteroid  An asteroid about 40 meters in width could level the largest cities on the  globe.      

  Image result for symbol for an asteroid   An asteroid or comet of 400 meters, similar in size to the asteroid which NASA                   has forecasted to come near the Earth on Halloween, would cause serious                          geological damage to an entire continent.     

Image result for symbol for an asteroid    An asteroid about 1000 meters or larger, would likely end most life on Earth.

Trick Or Treat

Doomsday preppers are exceptionally excited regarding what NASA scientists are tracking and forecasting for asteroid 2015 TB 145. This 400 meter-wide (1,300 feet) is tracked using optical observatories and the radar technology of NASA’s Deep Network at Goldstone, California. Known as the ‘Great Pumpkin’ Halloween Asteroid, it is predicted to safely travel slightly beyond the moon’s orbit on October 31 at 10:05 a.m. PDT., before returning back on its circular journey into the vast realm of our solar system.

According to the Minor Planet Center, which catalogs near-Earth objects (NEOs) this Halloween’s asteroid visitor is the closest known approach by any substantial celestial object until asteroid 1999 AN10 – which is a massive 800 meter sized object, whose orbit will return it near our moon in August 2027. ~

Resources And References Relating To This Subject Matter.

Halloween Asteroid a Treat for Radar Astronomy  http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news190.html

The Tunguska Impact — 100 Years Latter                                http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/30jun_tunguska/                                              

Near-Earth Object Programhttp://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/

Near Earth Object Groupshttp://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/groups.html

NEO Earth Close Approacheshttp://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/

Chicxulub Crater 

Asteroid to narrowly miss Earth on Halloween — http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/21/us/asteroid-earth-nasa-halloween-feat/

Asteroid that could wipe out London — http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/592987/End-of-the-world-asteroid-Blood-Moon-September-apocalypse-armageddon-comet-meteor

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.

Explosive Video Captures Seattle Kingdome’s Collapse Into Oblivion

Video and multimedia essay by: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

Preparing to record the mother of all collapses of a Seattle icon — we stood tightly packed, as a captive audience of thousands, ready for a chain-reaction roar from tons of ignited explosives. 

It was a sunny morning in Seattle on March 26, 2000, as my future wife and I set up video cameras to capture the Kingdome sports stadium’s last moments. Anticipating an enormous opportunity for dramatic video content, we arrived early, to set up tripods on a grassy knoll with an ideal stadium viewpoint. Our efforts were more than rewarded, with the structures stunning collapse; however the ensuing surprise aftereffects, were much more than planned for.

With only moments remaining for a syncopated, chain-reaction of explosions to pulverize its concrete victim —an anxious assembly of people, boats and helicopters settled in place. The percussive pops from helicopters perched overhead, drowned out voices from the crowd, whose attention focused ever sharper on the doomed stadium.  All in attendance knew not much time remained before one of the world’s largest buildings would only be a memory.Kingdome Demo_BPP_ 2

In these preceding moments my memories returned to the early mid 1970s when the dome was first built.  It proved a successful means to bring professional sports back to Seattle, with the Mariners and the Seahawks.  I recall the agony and ecstasy of seeing Seahawk football, played inside the dome: of how loud fan cheering was and standing up to do the “Wave” which had recently been invented and imported from UW, Husky Stadium.  The stadium’s greatest sports glory was: 1978-79 season of the SuperSonics, when the team won game 3 & 4 of the series at the dome; then winning the NBA Championship in-game 5, at a Washington DC against the Bullets.

Other events I attended at the dome were mega size rock concerts; although going to a concert at the dome was more about seeing the band, as the sound acoustics were horrible. One remarkable aspect forgotten about the dome was how cost-effective it was at a stadium facility; Nationally rated as a top civic venue for revenue generation, while producing real income for Seattle and King County.  After nearly three decades of use, the domes mushroom like esthetics lost its luster and would have a hard time winning in any beauty contest.  So, with maintenance and obsolescence catching up, its days became numbered and a decision had made on how to best remove it from the map. Imploding the Kingdome with explosives was selected the most efficient and quickest way to end its days.

Seattle Kingdome demolition March 26, 2000: view looking south moments before the explosion. Video by: David Johanson Vasquez /Bigpicturephoto.us  ©

Anxiously some groups near us began to chant out countdowns for the detonation to begin: their efforts produced nothing but collective groans when reaching zero.  On the third and final countdown a steady chorus chimed in, as we sensed this was going to be it.  In between one and zero, hundreds of pigeons near the stadium instantly took flight; suddenly, startling flashes of bright light burst from the structure’s seems, followed by plumes of smoke from shooting towards the sky.  At this instant, time seemed suspended; as if everything else in the world froze for a split second, to grant this colossus structure dignity of enjoying one last moment in the sun before falling from grace and collapsing into oblivion.  For a moment, it was like watching a surreal, silent movie, due to absent sounds of shock waves, which travel much slower than the light created by flashes of explosions.  A precise alignment of explosives, evenly spaced from the dome’s top to the ground, sliced through layers of concrete and steel, like a knife cutting wedges of a cake.  Finally, a ground-shaking roar of sound reached us and was now in synch with the dome as it collapsed in a slow-motion pantomime.  Astonishingly, the entire structure of 100 thousand tons of concrete and steel, which could have held several city blocks within its walls, appeared completely collapsed behind a dense shroud of dust and ash.

Watching in complete amazement and believing nothing could outdo what we had just witnessed, the crowds wild cheering was soon eclipsed by the sight of a rapidly advancing — ominous plume of swirling dust.  The ash cloud accelerated unexpectedly from the blast site as it expanded evermore rapidly by hundreds of feet within seconds. This monstrous cloud of caustic dust and debris ironically appeared to come to life, for avenging the destroyed stadium.

You could see large groups of pedestrians who were closer to the demolition site, scrambling into the streets to find cover from the unstoppable storm of dust. Within seconds, visibility of south Seattle was gone; the menacing shroud turned the sunny day into night as it rapidly descended north into the heart of the Emerald City.  Trying to keep my camera trained on the rogue cloud as it swallowed entire buildings and city blocks within its path, we notice it climbing to engulf our hill position. Grabbing the camera we scrambled for an exit, which would take us to safety in our vehicle.  Reaching the park car in record time, the dust storm’s leading edge was now depositing a layer of particles on the hood, with gray quarter-inch sized chunks floating down like snow.  Now safely inside, with relief we removed the sleeves from our faces, allowing for us to excitedly recount the dramatic events.

A few years later the EPA produced a report, which found comparable similarities in the debris particles from the Kingdome demolition; with what was found in the falling particles caused by World Trade Center attacks of 911.  The ejected powdered concrete caused an airborne mixture of caustic particulates, with high traces of pH levels.  The plan (or hope) for a debris cloud from the Kingdome demolition, was for a path heading south towards the industrial part of the city.  Normally, wind patterns in the area predominantly flow northwards, so the ill-conceived plan allowed for the dome to seek revenge and spread it remains throughout most of Seattle’s downtown area.

Up until now I’ve used this video for educational purposes in video production classes.  In the last segment of the video, are dramatic slow-motion and high-speed-motion of the Kingdome demolition. These techniques have a variety of applications for industry including: manufacturing, engineering, public services and creative entertainment.

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…


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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A Glimpse Into Havana’s Legendary Watering Hole.

By: David Johanson Vasquez © All Rights

This intriguing photograph is from September 1941 with only a few short months before North America entered World War II. The people gathered in this photo are in the old section of Havana, Cuba; at a bar whose name was Sloppy Joe’s.  Jose Garcia owned the bar, a popular sandwich on the menu called, “ropa veija,” is what inspired the bar’s name.

The woman sitting in the first row, situated between the two gentlemen is my grandmother, Alicia Klukas Vasquez.  My mother, uncle and grandmother were all traveling together on a large ocean liner from Brooklyn, New York to the country of Panama. The first port of call was Havana Cuba, a sitter on board the ship watched over my mom and uncle, while many passengers, including my grandmother’s group explored Old Havana.  I vaguely remember seeing this photo, at a young age, so it didn’t have a lot of significance for me back then. This week after being asked to scan the photo for making prints was the first time I really looked at the image. Now, the intriguing group of people, in a scene charged with atmosphere as if from a Golden Age of Hollywood movie, captivated me. In doing research I learned this bar was where Hollywood celebrities and world artist of the 1930’s through the 50’s would go when in Cuba.  Writer Ernest Hemingway lived in Havana when the photo was taken, and was a good friend as well as a loyal patron of the bar’s owner. Sloppy Joe’s attracted iconic actors; John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracey when they arrived in Havana. Learning of the watering hole’s patronage, I enlarged and examined the background in detail, to see if a famous face was peering from the shadows.  The bar remained popular and active until the end of the 50’s when Fidel Castro’s communist revolution closed the doors in 1959.

After the ship departed Cuba my grandmother and her children arrived in Panama where my grandfather was stationed in the Navy. Now united, the family was together for less than three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fear of the Panama Canal being invaded by the Japanese army, required all American citizens to be evacuated. On an ocean liner once again, my mother and her family were halfway to New Orleans when a German U-boat submarine began stalking their ship in the Gulf of Mexico. The captain of the ocean liner desperately, but wisely had all families bring their children above deck to line the railings for the U-boat’s German crew to see it was a civilian passenger ship they were about to attack. Fortunately, the wolf-pack sub slip quietly under the sea and was not seen for the rest of the voyage.

A fortunate update on Sloppy Joe’s in Havana has it being restored and should reopening in the near future. I hope the opportunity for me to travel to Cuba with my camera comes soon, as I would love to revisit Sloppy Joe’s and attempt to photograph the same camera angle used to capture that moment-in-time when my grandmother was there with her party.