Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Acting: It’s the Mules’ Fault

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Tom Firth with some of his mules that got him roped into acting.

Tom Firth has a budding acting career, and he places blame squarely on his mules.

“If it hadn’t been for my mules this might not have happened,” says Tom.

Tom, a resident of Anza, California, has a small speaking part in a Western television series called “Tucker’s War,” filmed in the Anza area. Director Stephen Savage is a veteran of the entertainment industry. “Tucker’s War” is in the same style as “Lonesome Dove.”

Tom and his friend Steve Silkotch, who also is in the show, were talking about the show one day.

“Jokingly, I had said something to him, that you need a crusty old sidekick with a mule,” Tom says. “He laughed and said, ‘You’re not too far off, your time is coming.’ I didn’t think anything more of it. Later on that summer, I got a call from Stevie and he said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be doing some filming this weekend. Would you be a member of the posse?’ I said sure.”

That short conversation led to Tom’s nonspeaking role in the series pilot as a mule wrangler in which he appears with his mule, Zane Grey.

The story of “Tucker’s War” takes place right after World War I. The lead character, played by Steve, is a Medal of Honor recipient having trouble returning to his cowboy life. Tom plays Charlie Carson and his twin brother, Caleb.

“Tucker’s War” also features Wolfgang Bodison (“A Few Good Men,” “CSI”), Don Swayze (HBO’s “True Blood” and “Carnivàle”) and Angela Daun (“Entourage,” “Tropic Thunder”).

The pilot and first episode have been released and can be viewed at

Although Tom’s character dies in the first episode, he is slated to appear in future episodes as the twin of his original character.

In 2016, Tom had his first taste of acting, appearing in “Ramona,” California’s official play. 2017 will be the 95th year of the production, performed at the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater. Tom says there is a film in the pipeline that could happen next year.

Tom was a lineman at Anza Electric Cooperative before retiring. He now serves on Anza’s board of directors.

Tom says this has been a whirlwind year.

“It seems I’ve done everything from rebuild the 94-year-old Americana Trail at the Ramona Bowl, to teaching a Master’s Leave No Trace program in the Sierras, to even hiking a portion of the John Muir Trail with my niece,” he says. “It has certainly been a busy year.

Live the Dream: Fish Year-Round

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Anyone can wet a line any time of the year, but being a successful year-round angler requires years of experience and practice. It means developing the skills of a jack-of-all-trades, and being able to fish whenever and wherever, using whatever tools and tactics are required by myriad situations and challenges that will be encountered.
© iStock/Creighton359

Pop was a year-round angler, and his rate of success was legendary. How the fishing guru of my childhood did it was beyond most observers.

When asked about it, he often dodged, “I’m too poor to golf and too young to play shuffleboard.”

Pop was more upfront with his fishing groupies. He said the key to fishing successfully year-round was all about change, and a person’s ability and willingness to adapt.

Here are three basic changes he recommended:

Change gear. This may seem obvious, but changing it up means more than just using different bait or tackle. Matching the correct rod, reel and rig to a given situation also is important to get the best touch, presentation and accuracy in any season.

Change tactics. Most anglers understand the importance of changing gear to fit circumstances, yet they often use the same techniques and tactics all the time. What works in spring doesn’t necessarily work in winter. For instance, it’s best to fish horizontally (closer to the surface) in warmer months and vertically (deep) in colder ones. Forage, feeding habits and activity levels are also different.

Change locations. There is nothing that says you have to fish the same spots all year. In fact, you will probably enjoy more success by moving around. Certain bodies of water are better suited than others for different times of the year. Figure out the best ones for each season and species.

For more detailed advice about fishing year-round, ask other anglers, browse fishing magazines, or check out free apps such as Pro Angler and My Fishing Advisor.

Give the Gift of Outdoors
With Christmas fewer than 60 days away, it’s not too soon to be thinking about gifts for family and friends.

Presents with a personal touch are favorites, so this year why not make gifts that say something about you and your love of the outdoors.

One of the easiest is a framed scenic or wildlife photo you took. If you want to get more creative, there are hundreds of gifts you can craft from incidentals found in woods, waters and along trails.

Check out Pinterest, Etsy and similar websites for ideas.

App of the Month—Google Earth
Google Earth provides an aerial perspective of the surface of the Earth and has many applications for hunting, fishing, boating, backpacking and other outdoor pursuits. Combine the free app with the desktop version of Google Earth for even more versatility. Free ArcGIS topographical maps can be downloaded and overlaid on the Google Earth maps to measure contours and plot elevation profiles for lines of travel. The app is available for Android and iPhone devices.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

A Closer Look: Windows and Doors

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Windows brighten a home and make a dramatic statement.
Photo courtesy of Marvin Windows and Doors

Windows do more than bring light into your home. They provide views of your neighborhood, connect the indoors with the outdoors, accent your home’s architecture and contribute to its curb appeal.

“Windows matter,” says Brett Boyum of Marvin Windows and Doors. “They’re a large and important part of the overall statement that a house makes.”

Marvin—a family business whose window expertise dates to 1939—is the world’s largest manufacturer of made-to-order windows and patio-style doors. Its signature brand is known for wood and clad wood products that can be customized, but the company also has newer brands that feature fiberglass, including one that simulates wood.

Aside from being a good insulator, wood looks rich. Marvin choices vary from standards such as pine and cherry to black walnut and mahogany.

Exterior aluminum cladding is available in several colors and finishes.

“It’s extruded aluminum and the thickness of a quarter, so it really stands up to wear and tear,” says Boyum.

Marvin’s patented, protruded fiberglass does not expand or contract in extreme temperatures, and “it resists cracking and denting, and gives structural strength to a window,” says Boyum.

Along with durability, the fiberglass windows come in light and dark fade-proof colors. If a homeowner needs to match siding or roofing, the windows can be painted.

In addition to aesthetics, Boyum reminds homeowners to consider performance. Replacement windows should be energy efficient and keep the house comfortable.

While Marvin has an online gallery and downloadable apps to help you find the perfect windows, Boyum recommends visiting a retailer to see the windows’ construction and operation.

“Homeowners shouldn’t choose windows for the cheapest price, but the best value,” he says.

Joe Klink at ProVia agrees value is an important consideration when selecting new windows and doors.

“You may pay more upfront, but you’ll have less hassle later,” he says.

ProVia makes exterior doors, replacement windows, vinyl siding and manufactured stone. Besides steel and fiberglass entrance doors, ProVia makes aluminum storm doors and vinyl, steel and fiberglass patio doors.

Its flagship product is the 20-gauge steel entry door with a mechanical interlock system for extra strength. The company’s fiberglass doors also are popular, thanks to embossed wood grain that seems like the real thing.

ProVia’s website has helpful tools geared to homeowners’ four main motivations for replacing exterior doors: beauty, durability, security and energy efficiency.

The company’s vinyl window products also deliver energy efficiency and eye-catching design options.

“Window performance is all about the U-factor,” says Klink. “The lower the number, the better.”

The U-factor—which measures heat conduction—indicates a window’s overall energy efficiency, which can be affected by grids and even the kind of gas used in double-pane windows.

“Krypton gas insulates better than argon,” says Klink.

From all-vinyl windows to those with vinyl exteriors and pre-finished wood interiors, ProVia windows offer options such as internal grids, privacy glass and the company’s hand-stained Inspirations Art Glass, which allows people to personalize their home with original designs, house numbers and even their names.

Santa’s Workshop for Soldiers

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Cheri Archibald checks her list while preparing bags for Project Rudolph.

Project Rudolph USA ensures those who serve are not forgotten

Every November, hundreds of volunteers with Project Rudolph USA transform a school gymnasium in southeastern Idaho into Santa’s workshop for soldiers.

Within a few hours, thousands of decorated brown paper lunch bags are filled for December delivery.

Each bag is packed with a flat ornament, a candy cane, a copy of the poem “A Soldiers’ Christmas,” and handwritten letters from a child, teen and adult.

“Soldiers have said they like our gift bags because they’re homemade and individualized,” says Oakley resident Cheri Archibald, co-director of the nonprofit project with her husband, Ray.

Since the project started in 2006, more than 50,000 gift bags have been sent to soldiers in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and South Korea.

“We also ship to those who are sometimes forgotten, like small forward operating bases overseas and the mortuary unit in Dover, Delaware,” she says.

Ray estimates about 300 volunteers pack about 4,400 bags in three hours. Last year, 8,400 bags were mailed.

“It’s like trunk-or-treat with stations for pre-bagged candy, ornaments and letters,” he says. “Volunteers get a bag and walk along to have it filled.”

The Archibalds’ son, Ian, started the charitable task as an Eagle Scout project with his sister, Tawny, and her husband, Joseph, who were stationed in Germany with the Army.

The family intended the project to be a one-time event until a fateful letter arrived.

“A soldier wrote and said he hoped we had time to do it again because that was all he got for Christmas,” says Ray. “How could we quit?”

Within a year, the project took on a life of its own, and donations began arriving year-round.

“We’ve had gifts from all 50 states and 14 foreign countries,” says Cheri.

Donations overflowed from their house into a storage shed. Finally, a local trucking company donated a semi-trailer to store all the gifts.

Ray says the gifts have touched lives in unforeseen ways. One soldier’s package contained a letter written by a former neighbor.

“What are the odds that out of 1,500 bags handed out in Germany, he would get the one with that particular letter?” asks Ray.

Soldiers are not the only ones who benefit.

“One woman thanked us for saving her life,” says Cheri. “She told us she was in her 40s, homebound from being disabled and felt worthless. Writing letters helped her have a sense of purpose and hope.”

Cheri says letters from adults are always needed.

“The thank you letters we receive from soldiers keeps us going,” she says.

Project Rudolph USA has a Facebook page and website,

Curb Appeal

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

When selecting colors for the exterior of your home, look for something that will stand out.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

Give the exterior of your home a fresh look with durable and attractive new materials using vivid colors that pop

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. That old saying is true for you and for your home.

All too often, homeowners dwell on how a house looks and feels on the inside and neglect the outside.

A new granite countertop may add sparkle to your kitchen, but maintaining your home’s exterior appearance—or curb appeal—also is important to your enjoyment of the place where you spend most of your time and have invested much of your money.

According to Lorin Miller, president of Miller Custom Exteriors, pride of ownership motivates many people to improve their home’s curb appeal.

“They want a house that immediately looks good when they’re entertaining family and friends,” Miller says.

Others want to give their home a fresh, updated appearance.

“People get tired of the way a house looks, but if they change the siding or install a cultured stone product, they’ll get a totally different exterior,” says Miller.

Miller Custom Exteriors has been in the home improvement business since 1978. While its renovation and remodeling projects are mostly in rural areas and small towns, the family-owned company also does jobs in the suburbs.

“Our goal isn’t just to cover up the outside of a house, but to create something that stands out,” Miller says. “We want to give a house character and make it unique in the neighborhood.”

A few years ago, the work his company did earned a contractor of the year award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The Victorian-era home’s makeover involved new roofing, siding and windows.

“We took the house back to its original appearance as much as possible, but used modern materials,” says Miller. “It’s a good example of how combining the right colors and style creates curb appeal.”

The house is light gray with burgundy and charcoal gray architectural features, with seamless steel siding on its walls and vinyl shakes in the gables.

Similar materials were used for a historic renovation of a Queen Anne house, which sports colors of russet red, classic blue, charcoal gray and almond.

“Color is an expedient way to add curb appeal,” Miller says. “The better siding products available today have no issues with darker colors fading, and there are lots of color choices for siding and trim pieces. We’re no longer limited to neutrals like white, beige or clay.”

But homeowners want more than a house with a pretty face. Sprucing up the outside also presents an opportunity to say goodbye to chores such as caulking worn-out windows and painting old siding.

“With so many limitations on everyone’s time today, people don’t want to spend their free time maintaining their home’s exterior,” Miller says.

Many customers choose a galvanized steel product with a baked-on finish.

“It’s stronger and lasts longer than vinyl siding,” says Miller.

Since each length is custom-cut on the job site, seamless steel siding fits a house exactly and has no unsightly splices or gaps. In addition to its durability and good looks, steel siding is manufactured from recycled material and can be recycled.

Because vinyl siding is relatively inexpensive and available in numerous colors, finishes and profiles, it has been America’s number-one exterior cladding for decades. However, its quality varies, and thin, cheap vinyl siding eventually undermines curb appeal by sagging or losing its luster, Miller says. He prefers to use a thick vinyl siding that is sturdy, impact-resistant and made in extra-long lengths to minimize seams and splices.

“Installation is really important because if vinyl siding is put on right, it lays straight and flush and won’t blow off,” Miller says.

Since it consumes so much space, the roof can enhance or diminish a home. An attractive roof in good condition increases curb appeal. Stained or missing shingles are both an eyesore and a red flag for a house in disrepair.

According to a report from the National Association of Realtors, new roofing ranks highest among exterior projects appealing to home buyers. A roof that keeps out the elements and keeps up appearances protects homeowners and their property investment.

Asphalt shingles are the nation’s most common residential roofing material. They can last for years, are available at different price points and offer design options ranging from traditional three-tab shingles to dimensional shingles to shingles that mimic wood shakes and slate.

Miller acknowledges asphalt shingles remain a popular choice for renovations, but his company also has installed hundreds of steel roofs on homes. Metal roofing costs about twice as much as asphalt, but lasts longer.

The steel roofing Miller uses has a hidden fastening system and is made in eye-catching patterns that look like pricier shakes and slate.

“They’re perfect for homeowners wanting something impressive,” he says.

When replacing windows, the frame is mostly a matter of style, Miller says.

Vinyl manufacturers offer numerous exterior colors and even wood-grain finishes to match interior trim.

“About 80 percent of people want white windows,” says Miller. “Their thinking is that white goes with everything.”

Trading drafty, dilapidated windows for modern, energy-efficient ones not only boosts curb appeal, but makes a house more comfortable and less expensive to heat or cool.

If homeowners can afford the upgrade, Miller recommends triple-pane windows.

“They’re way more efficient and help with noise reduction, too,” he says.

Miller reminds customers not to forget their front door.

“The entry door is one of the most important aspects of curb appeal,” he says. “It’s the first thing people see. Everything about the door—color, design, even hardware—forms their opinion of a house.”

Wood doors lend sophistication, but because they are costly and require care, many homeowners opt for steel or fiberglass.

Generally, steel doors are less expensive and better for painting because of their smooth surface. Fiberglass doors—which can be made with wood-grain textures duplicating mahogany, cherry or oak—look great stained or painted.

Steel and fiberglass doors are virtually maintenance free and are available in many styles and decorative glass designs.

Doors with tight-fitting frames, energy-efficient foam cores and glass inserts have higher price tags, but look nicer, function better and survive longer than bargain-basement products.

A dazzling front door is also an asset when it is time to sell your home. The National Association of Realtors included new steel and fiberglass doors in its report on projects with maximum buyer appeal.

“One thing that will never change is the importance of curb appeal because it serves as the first impression of the home,” says NAR President Tom Salomone. “If buyers don’t think a home is attractive when driving by, chances are they won’t ask a realtor to see more.”

Comfort Foods Contest Winners

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Sometimes, the best cure for what ails you is food that provides a little emotional comfort. We asked our readers for “comfort food” recipes—whether they be for a dish reminiscent of childhood, a beloved relative or a favorite destination—that could be featured in our Comfort Food Cookbook.

We received submissions from members of many of the electric utilities we serve—and even from some that we don’t. It was not easy to choose the winners of the recipe contest, but after great debate, we chose our seven favorites.

The winners are featured on these In the Kitchen pages and will appear in our next cookbook, along with other recipes submitted for the contest. Enjoy!

Outrageously Delicious Cheese Bread

  • 1 round loaf of Shepherd’s bread
  • 6-oz. package of sliced Swiss cheese
  • 3 to 4 slices of raw bacon
  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • ¼ c. diced onion
  • ½ tsp. Accent seasoning mix
  • 1 T. poppy seeds
  • 1 T. dried parsley

Slice bread six times on top of loaf, but not all the way through.

Cream together the stick of butter, chopped onion, seasoning mix, poppy seeds and parsley. Spread butter mixture between slices of bread, but save enough for the top. Place cheese between the slices of bread. Spread remaining butter mixture over top of loaf. Put slices of raw bacon over the top of the loaf.

Bake at 350 degrees on tinfoil-lined baking sheet for 30 minutes.

To serve, slice six times in the opposite direction of the cuts. Enjoy!
This is wonderful with a glass of white wine.

This cheese bread recipe was my grandmother’s recipe, and the whole family was so excited when she would make this.

Judy Medley
Lakewood Ranch, Florida • Peace River Electric Cooperative


Chocolate Bread Pudding

  • 6 slices cinnamon bread, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Zest of one orange
  • ¼ c. cooking oil
  • ¼ c. orange juice
  • ½ c. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. chocolate morsels

In a 11/2-quart casserole dish, combine bread, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Measure oil, juice and honey in same cup. Mix well and pour over bread mixture. Slightly beat together eggs, milk and vanilla. Pour over all. Add chocolate morsels. Mix all ingredients until bread is moistened.

Cover and microwave on medium for 10 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes. In oven, bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes. Stir to remix ingredients. Bake 20 minutes longer.

Lynne Schaefer
Sunriver, Oregon • Midstate Electric Cooperative


Betty Sue’s Vanilla Orange Pudding

  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 2 T. cornstarch (4 T. flour may be substituted if corn allergies are an issue)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 orange cut into bite-size pieces

In a saucepan, bring the milk just barely to a simmer.

In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch beating until blended. Note: Mixture will bunch up in the whisk; keep beating until it flows out into the bowl. A hand beater/mixer can be used for this step.

When milk comes to a simmer, slowly add about half of the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking or stirring, then pour back into saucepan with the rest of the milk. Cook, stirring until mixture becomes thick.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Stir well. Chill until cool.

Stir in chopped orange pieces just before serving.

Use 1 c. unsweetened coconut milk (not coconut water) with 1 c. milk.
Use 2 c. half-and-half for a richer pudding.
Add nuts, coconut or dried fruit

When I was a child in the ’50s living in a small in rural town, and would stay home from school for one thing or another, Mom always made me this pudding. I loved the fresh juicy oranges mixed with creamy, rich pudding that always made me feel better.

Susan Conklin
Mosier, Oregon • Wasco Electric Cooperative


Chicken Reuben

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 16-oz. can of sauerkraut, drained and pressed to almost dry
  • 1 c. Thousand Island dressing
  • 4 to 5 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 T. chopped parsley

Heat oven to 350 F.

Place chicken in greased Pyrex dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread sauerkraut over chicken. Top with cheese. Pour dressing over cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

This is really tasty with toasted rye bread on the side.

Mindy Street
Midstate Electric


Tater Tot Casserole

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup (or cream of celery)
  • 1 bag frozen tater tots
  • 1 can green beans (optional, I never put them in)
  • 1 c. sour cream

Heat oven to 350 F.

Brown beef with dry onion soup mix. Spray casserole pan with cooking oil. Mix soup and sour cream in a separate bowl.

Layer ingredients:
1/2 tater tots
1/2 soup and sour cream mixture
1/2 hamburger mixture
All of green beans, if desired
Repeat layers, ending with ground beef mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 4

In 1972, I went from Texas to work at a Girl Scout camp in Minnesota. First grand adventure away from home on my own. This casserole was the opening-night dinner every session for the two summers I was there. My parents came up to see me, and I asked the camp cook to give my mom a family-size version because I liked it so much. It is quick to make with few ingredients but the flavors blend wonderfully. I even like the leftovers cold. Easy for beginning cooks, too.

Paula Christy
The Dalles, Oregon • Northern Wasco PUD


Mom’s Potato Soup

Peel one large or two small potatoes. Cut into a dice (small cubes).

Slice a small onion. Put potato and onion into a small saucepan (not non-stick). Barely cover with water. Add a little salt; boil until done.

Cube a slice or two of bread (Mom always used white, so I do, too) and put in a bowl. Pour the liquid from cooking the onion and potato over the bread. Your choice whether or not to remove the crusts.

Mash cooked potato and onion with a potato masher, fork or small mixer. Stir in one beaten egg.

Add soaked bread cubes with liquid and milk to desired consistency. I like mine on the thick side. Season to taste.

Heat until hot on low heat, but do not cook. Stir often. To serve, top with a chunk of butter and chives or parsley if you have some.

This recipe is for one serving. Mom said that if you make a larger batch, still only use one egg.

Nancy Caslick
Oceanside, Oregon • Tillamook PUD


Grandma Grace’s Apple Cake

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 cube butter (softened) or 3/4 stick Crisco baking stick
  • 2 med-large or 3 small red, sweet apples peeled, scored and thinly sliced**If using tart apples, add 1/3 c. additional sugar
    1/2 c. milk

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Blend. Add butter and work through thoroughly with a pastry cutter or clean hands. Add apples and mix thoroughly. If apples aren’t juicy enough, add just enough milk (1 T. at a time) until dough is crumbly but slightly sticky. Press firmly down into a well-greased shallow pan, dish, or onto cookie sheet (about 1 to 1½” high). Mix 1 T. sugar with 1 tsp. sugar and sprinkle over the top of unbaked cake.

Bake at 400 F (375 F for dark, nonstick) for about 40 minutes (pan or dish) or about 30 minutes (cookie sheet) or until top and sides look brown and crispy and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Top with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

Optional: For a richer dessert, add 1/2 c. chopped walnuts. Drizzle melted gourmet chocolate on top of the finished cake. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

This recipe was handed down by my mother’s mother (my grandmother) Grace, who was a wonderful and inventive cook. This recipe is as comforting as apple pie or cobbler, but way easier and faster to make.

Margaret Gilbert (submitted by daughter Glenna Lee)
Westwood, California • Lassen Municipal Utility District


Order your copy of our newest cookbook, Comfort Foods. Our reader-submitted recipes, from pasta and casseroles to treats and desserts, are sure to warm your heart and soothe your soul.

You can give this as a gift or add it to your collection for just $9, shipping included.

Order online at, over the phone by calling (503) 718-3720, or by mail with your check or money order to Ruralite Cookbooks, 5605 NE Elam Young Pkwy, Hillsboro, OR 97124.

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover accepted.
Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Thinking In Threes

Monday, September 25th, 2017

To ensure visual variety in images, photograph a wide overall scene. Photos by David LaBelle

Much of our world works in trilogy. We see God in three persons. There were three stooges, three blind mice and three wise men. Pyramids and triangles get their power from three sides. Most stories have a beginning, middle and end.

Sometimes, a catch phrase or device—a mnemonic—can aid us in remembering a rule or principle. “I before e, except after c” has helped me spell words I am unsure of. “Thirty days has September, April, June and November …” Or the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why.

Thinking in threes might be a way to help you improve your photo coverage.

  • Lensing and composition: wide, medium and tight.

Even if you have only one fixed, unchangeable lens, moving closer or further away and photographing from three distinct distances will offer welcomed visual variety.

If all pictures are shot from the same distance with the same lens, our pictures become one-dimensional, predictable and, dare I say, boring.

Who wants to see picture after picture of the same barn, shot from the same distance, the same time of day?

Imagine listening to a speaker who said only, “Dog, dog, dog.” Or closing your eyes and listening to a note that never changes. I can, because I live with a continual high-pitched ringing in my ears called tinnitus. Thankfully, I have convinced myself it sounds like the singing of bugs in late summer or early fall, which is music to my ears.

Challenge yourself to alternate distances in your compositions from wide, medium to tight or close-up. By changing distances—by lens or legs—you will change the visual notes of your pictures.

Consider starting wide. This gives your audience an overall view, shows them where they are. We often call this giving a sense of place.
Move closer and see if you can show interactions—person to person or person to surrounding elements.

Finally, get close and challenge yourself to capture important or revealing details that add spice—clues to a larger picture or story.

Sometimes the smallest details—what somebody treasures—speak the loudest about a person or situation.

  • People: different times and different environments.

Show a person in three different settings: at work, at play and at rest. This usually offers different locations and different clothing. In addition, photograph a subject full body, waist up and then in a tight facial portrait. In other words, get close, closer and intimate.

  • Timing: BAD, which means before, during and after.

Go early, stay focused during an event and stay late, watching for revealing, storytelling moments.

I see a lot of photos done with the same lens, shot at the same angle, from the same distance, with little or no visual variety. Sometimes, I fear editors have lowered standards and expectations for the sake of just getting “something” in print or on a website. I hope not.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Perspective From the Oregon Coast

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The Chetco Bar Fire started July 12, 2017, as a quarter-acre fire caused by a lightning strike in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness 22 miles northeast of Brookings, Oregon.

At first, the fire burned slowly in a remote, steep region with terrain too hazardous for firefighters. The scope changed in mid-August when hot, dry, on-shore winds—locally known as the Chetco Effect—fueled rapid fire growth. Within a few days, the fire grew from a couple thousand acres to more than 10,000 acres then to 80,000 acres.

Several thousand residents—including Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative Inc. employees—were ordered to leave their homes with only a moment’s notice. At 2 a.m. August 21, the Curry County Sheriff’s Department knocked on the door of AJ Weber, a CCEC lineman, telling him he needed to evacuate immediately. Lineman Tim Hawkins and Substation Electrician Ryan McGinnis immediately responded to help AJ and his wife transport their pets, important documents, heirlooms and travel trailer to safety 25 miles north.

Several days later, Safety Coordinator Cindy Peare and her parents, who live next door, were notified they needed to leave their homes. Borrowing trailers from friends and family, and with help from CCEC Staker Zane Adams, Purchasing Agent Tad Bell and Lineman AJ Weber, they moved essentials to a safe location. Assistant IT Director Duffell Gray and his family opened their home to Cindy and her parents.

As the fire grows, more members of the CCEC family are being put on pre-evacuation notice. Employees who live outside the immediate fire danger zone are storing treasures for employees whose homes are at risk. With hotels and campgrounds full, other employees have welcomed evacuees with travel trailers to park on their property.

“We are all here to help, and if anyone needs assistance, we are committed to being there day or night,” CCEC General Manager Roger Meader told employees.

Hiking the Transition Seasons

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Even though fall is cooler and cloudier than summer, don’t leave your sunglasses and sunscreen at home the next time you go hiking. UV rays are strong enough to penetrate thin layers of clouds and potentially damage your skin and eyes.
© iStock/Smileus

There’s something wonderful about the transition seasons, fall and spring.

With October’s arrival, temperatures are cooling and rain is starting to settle in again. It’s a time when you can encounter more wildlife without being eaten alive by bugs.

This combination of factors makes conditions for hiking and other outdoor activities near perfect.

If you were not active during the summer, take it slow at first. Let your muscles and lungs adjust to the new stresses on them. Start with short, easy hikes before tackling longer distances.

The same goes for shoes. Wear well-conditioned, comfortable shoes, or be sure new ones are broken in before going more than a mile or two in them.

Weather can change quickly during the transition seasons. Check weather reports before leaving and monitor them throughout the hike. Also, for safety’s sake, consider packing the 10 essentials. Find the list at

Take along your camera and binoculars. The change in weather makes wildlife more active, so you are more likely to see it this time of year.

Try not to surprise animals, especially bears and cougars. Stay on developed trails. Make a little noise to announce your presence, particularly when rounding blind corners.

Keep in mind it is hunting season in many areas throughout the region, so use extra caution when hiking outside of developed areas. Wear brightly colored clothes or a blaze-orange vest to increase your visibility.

App of the Month—Geocaching
Geocaching is a treasure hunt for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. The activity requires a GPS device to locate hidden geocaches. More than 2 million of them can be found around the world.

Geocaching, the app, is the best way to participate in this popular pastime. The free app is available for Apple and Android devices at the App Store and Google Play.

Fall Bass-Busting Tip
Bass become more active in fall, as water temperatures cool and the seasonal influx of baitfish begins. Take advantage of this critical period. Use crankbait to fish shallow, where most bass will be found. Focus on structure, as well as gathering and choke points that funnel baitfish, such as weed boundaries, creek trickles and where backwaters enter deeper water.

Something is Always On Sale
Preseason and postseason are the best times to buy gear, no matter the outdoor pursuit. For example, the best times to buy fishing gear are the fall for postseason bargains, and late winter and early spring for preseason doorbusters. Retailers use preseason sales to compete for customers, while postseason sales move out old merchandise.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip or photo. If selected, we will send you $25 for one-time use of the item. When sending a photo, identify people and pets, and tell us the story behind the picture. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

Wildfire Through the Eyes of a Photographer

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The Eagle Creek Fire reaches the tops of ridges above Cascade Locks on the second night of the fire. The Bridge of the Gods sits in the foreground.
Photos by Jurgen Hess

Photojournalist Jurgen Hess records the drama of forest fires and offers an up-close perspective

A teenager tossed fireworks over a mountain cliff and set off the massive Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon September 2.

The fire has burned thousands of forested acres in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, causing the evacuation of towns and enveloping Portland and its suburbs just 25 miles west of the fire epicenter in smoke.

It was just one of the wildfires burning up the West this fall: 27 in Oregon; 25 in Idaho; 45 in Montana; 12 in Washington; and 30 in Alaska. In all, 2.3 million acres are on fire.

Photojournalist Jurgen Hess of Hood River, Oregon, documents wildfires and the stories of those who fight them.

But Jurgen connects to this fire beyond the job. He lives at the fire’s east end. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent 16 years as head planner for the U.S. Forest Service at the scenic area. For six years, he covered stories for Ruralite in Hood River and Wasco counties.

“I know every nook and cranny of the Gorge and its vulnerabilities,” he says.

The Eagle Creek Fire has burned the scenic area that astounded Jurgen from the first time he saw it 30 years ago. It holds steep mountains, old-growth forests, waterfalls and iconic historic structures.

“Certainly there is a sense of loss, and it touches my heart and soul that these big wildfires impact not only a beautiful forest, but also the homes of wildlife and fish,” Jurgen says. “But I don’t look at the forest as being destroyed. Yes, it’s a huge impact, but over time these forests will rejuvenate. New plants will grow.

“Stream sides will be bare for a while, and initially there will be erosion. But in five to 10 years, people seeing it for the first time will never know there was a fire here.”

Jurgen uses photography and presentations to explain the increase in the number of wildfires: climate change and more people building homes in harm’s way at the wildland-urban interface.

In wildland fires—those without homes—firefighters can burn out acreage to rob the fire of fuel. But in the Eagle Creek Fire—as in forests throughout the West—the fire area contains many houses. A different way of fighting fires is used in these areas, sometimes creating firelines around the houses, spraying them with water or dropping water from helicopters.

Adding to the complexity, high-voltage transmission lines run through the forest.

“Bonneville Power Administration power transmission lines are right in the middle of this fire,” Jurgen says. “Fire managers told me they hope to not have to de-energize the BPA line, because it feeds the high population area of Portland.”

Since the 1970s, the annual number of large wildland fires has tripled. The trend correlates with higher average summer temperatures, which have started earlier in spring, giving forests more time to dry and making them susceptible to fire.

Firefighting is fraught with danger.

“I’ve asked firefighters why they do this dangerous job,” Jurgen says. “When I’m on the fireline as a photographer and the fire is roaring like a four-engine jet plane 200 feet away with flames shooting 150 feet in the air, burning embers and ash falling around me, I feel the danger and also an adrenaline rush.

“Firefighters know the danger, but say they feel they’re helping people and the forest.”

After the fire is out, Jurgen will return to photograph nature’s restoration.

“I see wildflowers coming up, pollinators, black-backed woodpeckers eating insects in the dead trees,” Jurgen says. “I see trees re-sprouting. Life returns.”