Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

A Formula to Grow Your Photo-Storytelling Skills

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

One of the cool things about barbershops is the abundance of mirrors and details. In the image, Walden’s Barbershop in Hartville, Ohio, Ray Walsh, 68, in the chair at left, gets a haircut and beard trim from Theresa Walden while her husband, Tony, prepares to work on college student Matthias Miles. Photos by David LaBelle

Each year, I give dozens of assignments designed to help students grow their narrative storytelling skills. I have found one exercise that best challenges and strengthens the skills of beginner documentary photographers: documenting a local barbershop.

Like finding a physical workout to strengthen muscles, this photo assignment helps strengthen observational, listening, interpersonal, organizational, artistic, interpretive and technical skills while building the beginner’s confidence—a key ingredient for successful storytellers.

Success builds success, so it is important for beginners to tackle something they can achieve. Initially, I thought a hair salon would also work, but they have never produced the same results.

Here is why this works:

  • It is a contained spot. A lot of sports photographers are lousy documentary storytellers. They are great at covering a planned event in a self-contained location, but often fail when they have to “find” stories on their own. Researching, talking to strangers, and coming up with a storyline or point of view is not their strength. Like a sporting venue, the barbershop allows the action and interactions to be witnessed and experienced in a pre-determined, self-contained environment.
  • It forces shy, introverted people to work and interact in close spaces. For many of my students with solid technical skills, approaching strangers or speaking in a public forum is a difficult challenge. Those who know me find it hard to believe I was once a terribly shy, insecure young man terrified to speak publicly. But I felt I had important things to say, so I kept facing my fears and stumbling until public speaking became comfortable. Working in close spaces with people you do not know stretches your comfort zone, forcing you to interact with fellow human beings. This requires you to make initial contact to ask permission. Maybe get your hair cut first?
  • It is a place to observe, listen and learn. Sitting quietly, preferably with a notepad, will teach you to observe and listen. This must be done without the destructive distraction of a cellphone or laptop screen. I remember stepping off a plane onto Alaska’s North Slope and feeling I had been dropped on the moon. I was there to photograph wildlife, but saw nothing but spongy, frozen emptiness. As I sat staring and listening, the tundra began to move, and I heard a variety of animals. Many are so blinded by their devices they fail to see the subtle beauty around them. Sitting quietly in a barbershop, you will see important, relevant, storytelling details you have never noticed. Listen. Pay attention to colorful quotes, the cantor or speech, names. First, observe without the camera at your face or eye. Watch, gather and experience the smells and the sounds.

Visit several times, until you and they feel comfortable. The more you show up, the quicker people will quit performing and see you as part of the furniture—and you will feel more comfortable, which will make shooting pictures easier.

Show appreciation to the people who have given you access to them, and their precious time and trust, by offering to give them pictures.

Don’t risk forgetting to follow up or losing business cards or scraps of paper containing their names. Instead, give them your email and put the onus on them to contact you. It is easy to ask for pictures, but many won’t make the effort to follow up. If they do, be sure to deliver. People will judge others and the profession by your actions.

Internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer David LaBelle has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. For more information, visit

Famous Farmhouse Lost in Flames

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

It’s become a common warm-weather sight in the Northwest: acre upon acre ravaged by fire.

The summer of 2018 has been no exception.

The Substation Fire started on private land southeast of The Dalles, Oregon, on Tuesday, July 17. By the evening of July 22, the fire had covered 78,425 acres.

Among the destruction was the Charles E. Nelson farmhouse in Dufur, a farming community of 607 people as of 2014.

The clapboard Queen Anne Victorian dated back to the late 1800s. It was named for Charles Nelson, the building’s last occupant. He and his wife, Orma, lived there from 1927 to 1949.

Although the house was dilapidated and abandoned—left vacant for nearly 80 years—it was thought to be one of the most photographed farmhouses in the state.

The top photo, taken by Leon Burkholder of Boring, Oregon, was captured July 7. Leon returned to the spot July 18. Only a few scorched trees and an unused windmill remain.

Allemande, Do-Si-Do, Swing

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

Dancing lifts the spirits while twirling to live music

With a few gentle strokes of a rosined bow, fiddle strings come to life, and another contra dance begins in Eugene, Oregon. Dancers move under the direction of caller Woody Lane, who guides them through the flowing dance as they travel up and down the dance hall in lines, greeting other dancers with big smiles.

Woody, from Roseburg, Oregon, calls out the next move as the powerful and rhythmic music performed by Chico Schwall and Friends fuels the dancers through the steps. As the music builds to a crescendo, the dancers feed off the energy and their enthusiasm rises. Some whoop or cheer, sensing the end of the tune is near, and work to add one last flourish before the dance ends.

“I’m of the philosophy that this is a big party,” Woody says. “People are having a good time together in a safe, supporting place.”

Many dancers say they cannot have a bad time contra dancing. With the uplifting music, the social interaction and endorphins released from exercise, the dance hall is full of positive energy.

Between sets, the room buzzes with conversation as old friends catch up and new friends get acquainted.

What is Contra Dancing?
Contra dancing is an American folk dance with roots in France, England and Scotland. Contra roughly means “oppo-site” in French. Dancers are often oppo-site their partners in long lines up and down the dance hall.

With moves you might find in square dancing—such as do-si-do, swing and circle left—new dancers catch on quickly. A caller walks dancers through each dance before it begins and keeps them on track.

No fancy footwork is required. Anyone who can count to eight and walk a straight line can master the basics.

“It is easy,” says Christine Cormac, a dancer at the bimonthly Eugene dance sponsored by the Eugene Folklore Society. “It is fun. People are friendly and super forgiving.”

“It’s a fun way to exercise,” says Karen Olsen, who drove more than 100 miles to attend the dance. “It’s always live music. It’s like being a kid again, running around and being silly.”

Part of the magic of contra dancing is that while you have a partner, you also dance with everyone else in your line. A series of moves is performed with another couple next to you in your line. At the end of that series, each couple progresses in the line and repeats the pat-tern with a new couple.

Part of the contra culture is that experienced dancers pair up with beginners. By doing so, new dancers learn quickly, and the experience for everyone improves.

Another custom is changing partners after each dance. When the music stops, partners grab a drink of water and look for their next partner. Anyone can ask anyone to dance.

Each dance set lasts about 15 minutes.

What is the Music Like?
A live band plays jigs and reels with a lively beat, but it is not limited to those genres.

The melody is often carried by a fiddler but can trade off with other instruments. The band might consist only of a fiddle and piano player, but most often  has three to five musicians. Other common instruments include guitar, banjo, mandolin, bodhran (an Irish drum), accordion or concertina, string bass and penny whistle.

As the dancing heats up, stomping feet and clapping hands at key moments in the music adds another dimension to the sound.

One dance in Portland, Oregon, plays techno music.

What Should I Wear?
Contra dancing is a good workout, so dress accordingly. Unlike its more formal cousin, square dancing, puffy skirts and bolo ties are rarely seen at a contra dance.

Men often wear shorts and T-shirts, and women wear skirts long enough that they are comfortable when they twirl. Many wear shoes with a leather sole, which facilitates twirling on the floor, but any comfortable pair of nonmarking shoes is fine. Some dancers find bowling shoes work well. Avoid high heels or boots. The best shoes allow dancers to slide on their toes as they maneuver around the room.

If You Go
New dancers are always welcome and a partner is not required—singles will haveno trouble finding a partner. Most dances are family-friendly and have a 30-min-ute lesson for beginners before the first dance. The caller reviews the basic moves and offers tips. By the end of the evening, the new dancers blend right in with the veterans.

Woody offers a simple tip for first-time dancers.

“Smile and just have a good time,” he says. “Try to dance with people who know how to dance.”

Want more? Check out the video from the dance at

Venturing Outside the Lines

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

A good map is essential when venturing off the beaten path. Above, a father and daughter take a break to check their location on a map of the area. They are using the stream as a linear topographical feature to follow, in lieu of a trail. © iStock/Kerkez

Remember when you learned to color in school? You were taught to stay within the lines.
Yet there was always that kid who couldn’t resist the temptation to color outside the lines.

For some of us, that tendency is inherent in the way we explore the outdoors. We prefer to get off the beaten path. It’s a great way to avoid crowds, discover new vistas and see more wildlife.

Whatever your favorite means of experiencing the outdoors—backpacking, hiking, mountain biking or canoeing—here are a few tips to help you enjoy your excursions outside the lines.

  • Master basic navigation skills. At a minimum, that includes knowing how to read a map, identify terrain features, orient a map to terrain, track pace count, and take and follow a compass bearing.
  • Don’t go it alone. Traveling with friends is always more enjoyable, not to mention safer.
  • Bring along a good map. Bring a hardcopy or digital map downloaded to your GPS or phone. Better yet, carry both. Don’t rely on maps that require internet access, since cell signals may be weak or nonexistent in remote areas.
  • Avoid fragile vegetation and terrain. Always obey stay-on-the-trail signs. Even in areas not posted, whenever possible, stay on dirt, sand, rocks or other durable surfaces.
  • Let someone know where you are going. Have a plan and share it with friends or family. Give them a copy of the map showing your intended route.

App of the Month:Gaia GPS
A good map app is useful for wilderness travel, and Gaia GPS is well worth consideration. It offers all of the features one expects to find in a first-rate map app, and exceeds expectations.

One feature that sets it apart is the ability to download lots of maps—not just one type, but many different formats. Maps can be viewed singly or in layers.

A free, bare-bones version of Gaia GPS is available, but the best value is the member-level annual subscription. Some people might consider it expensive—$19.95 a year—but it is well worth the price.

Think Like Bait
It’s simple: Locate bait and you will find fish. To do that, you have to know where naturally occurring bait will be found. Obviously, time of year, water temperature and habitat should be assessed. But you also can take your cues from observations. Watch for bait fish skimming the surface or schooling in open water. Birds circling or feeding on the water is also a good indication of bait—and fish.

Special September Days
September 16, Collect Rocks Day.
September 22, National Hunting and Fishing Day.

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. Remember to identify people and pets in photos. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Happenings Out West

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Benton REA welcomes visitors to National Night Out in West Richland, Washington.
Photo courtesy of Benton REA

Planning a final hurrah before summer ends? Check out the following events as you hit the road throughout Ruralite territory


Friday, August 3, through Saturday, August 11
Tanana Valley State Fair, Fairbanks
The Tanana Valley State Fair is the oldest fair in the state. The event features family fun, including livestock, games, rides, an amusement park, horse shows, art and crafts, competitive exhibits, quilt shows, giant cabbages, contests, special events, and two outdoor stages with free entertainment.


Friday, August 17
Denali Blueberry Festival, Healy
This fun family event at Otto Lake features carnival games, face painting, live music, a barbecue and Frisbee golf on the water.


August 2-5, 9-12
Festival at Sandpoint
Don’t miss eight nights of music under the stars on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint. Since 1983, the festival has hosted a summer concert series in at Memorial Field in Sandpoint. This year’s lineup includes Big Head Todd and The Monsters, ZZ Top, Amos Lee, Spokane Symphony and others.


Friday, August 24, and Saturday, August 25
Hot August Nights, Lewiston
The Friday Night Car Cruise and the Saturday Show Shine take place in conjunction with Lewiston’s Hot August Nights concert at Boomers’ Garden. The event draws local, regional and national car enthusiasts to Lewiston each year. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of the growing business and cultural scene by spending time at the town’s restaurants, shops, museums and entertainment venues.



Saturday, August 25
Western Heritage Day, Wells
The Society for the Preservation of Western Heritage welcomes visitors to Trail 49 Museum to relive the past through lectures and entertainment.
Call (775) 752-3540 for details.


Saturday, August 4
Frenchglen Jamboree, Frenchglen
The day includes dummy roping, a boot race, a stick horse barrel race, a potato race and musical grain sacks for children up to age 14. Team branding follows morning events. The jamboree also includes horseshoe and cribbage tournaments at Frenchglen Hotel.


Saturday, August 4
Oregon’s 66th annual East West Shrine All-Star Football Game, Baker City
Once a year, Oregon’s best senior football players from 1A to 4A high schools play an all-star football game to support Portland Shriners Hospital for Children. The day begins with a parade.


Saturday, August 7, through Saturday, August 11
Douglas County Fair, Roseburg
The midway features rides, food vendors, commercial vendors and livestock. Top-name musical entertainment is free with fair admission.


Wednesday, August 8, through Saturday, August 11
Tillamook County Fair, Tillamook
The fair includes live horse racing, world-famous Pig-N-Ford races, a carnival and a wide variety of vendors. This year’s theme is “There’s Magic in the Air, With a Country Flair!”
Entertainment includes Sawyer Brown, Jerrod Niemann and The Blues Traveler. There is a demolition derby Saturday.


Thursdays, August 9 and August 23
Music in the Pines, La Pine
This free concert series includes a great lineup of bands, food and craft vendors. Bring lawn chairs, blankets and the entire family.


Friday, August 31, through Monday, September 3
Sumpter Flea Market, Sumpter
More than 150 booths and vendors make this one of the largest flea markets in Oregon. Visitors can ride the Sumpter Valley Railroad, visit the Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge and explore the region’s gold rush history at local museums.
Call (541) 894-231 for more details.



Tuesday, August 7
National Night Out, West Richland
Neighborhoods throughout West Richland join forces for the 33rd annual National Night Out crime and drug prevention event at Flat Top Park. Visit with police officers, play games, and enjoy hamburgers and hot dogs as you learn more about crime prevention.
Other National Night Out events are planned throughout the U.S.
For more information, call (509) 967-0521.


Thursday, August 9
Downtown Sip & Stroll, Walla Walla
The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation and local merchants invite visitors to an evening of shopping and wine tasting while strolling downtown. Enjoy local wines, snacks, and access to special sales and giveaways. Tickets include six wine tastings at participating wineries.


Thursday, August 23, through Sunday, August 26
Klickitat County Fair and Rodeo, County Fairgrounds, Goldendale
The event celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Events include a Northwest Pro Rodeo Association rodeo on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.


Friday, August 31, through Sunday, September 2
Maryhill Windwalk Gravity Games, Historic Maryhill Loops Road south of Goldendale
The event showcases standup skateboarders, street luge and classic luge on the first paved road in Washington. 

How to Outdoor-Proof Your Smartphone

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Water is one of a smartphone’s worst enemies, especially saltwater. Even if your phone is in a waterproof case, manufacturers don’t recommend allowing the case to come in contact with saltwater or briny beaches. If that happens, rinse it with tap water and dry it with a soft cloth. Avoid pushing any of the buttons while rinsing or when the case is still wet.
© iStock/tuaindeed

Let’s face it. Your smartphone is a tenderfoot outdoors. Dangers abound, ready at any moment to turn it into a handful of worthless e-scrap.

To protect your phone, consider these five tips to safeguard it from moisture, dirt, sand, sunlight and heat.

  • Cover it. Invest in a waterproof case, which also protects the phone from dirt and sand getting inside. Even something as simple and cheap as a zip baggie or freezer bag provides a basic level of protection.
  • Up-armor it. For a few dollars more than a mid-range waterproof case, you can get one that also protects the phone from drops. Stick with name brands, such as Pelican, Lifeproof and Otterbox.
  • Hide it. The sun and extreme heat can wreck havoc on the screen and inner workings of your phone. Keep it out of direct sunlight and off of the ground—such as in your pocket or backpack—to avoid these hazards. Better yet, a dry area in a cooler provides the perfect refuge for a phone with a waterproof case.
  • Love it. A little TLC goes a long way. Use screen protectors to avoid scratches. Perform regular maintenance, such as cleaning the outside of the phone and blowing out hard-to-reach places with canned air.
  • Leave it. Do you really need to take your phone? Only you can make that determination. If the answer is no, leave it at home and avoid the hazards that lurk outdoors.

Get the Mud Out
Ever notice how catfish caught in summer have a somewhat muddy taste? The best way to eliminate the taste is to cut out the band of reddish dark meat—often called the mud vein—that runs through catfish filets. Then, soak the white meat of the filets overnight in the refrigerator in water and a little lemon juice or vinegar to remove any residual mud taste before cooking.

Three Tent Camping Comfort Hacks

  • Take a cue from RVers: Pack an old carpet to roll out in front of your tent or where you congregate. Consider bringing a second one for inside your tent. Your feet will thank you.
  • Bring toilet paper from home. It is sure to be softer than the sandpaper-quality TP found at most campgrounds.
  • If you sleep on the ground, put a closed-cell sleeping pad under your egg crate or air mattress. It will insulate you from the ground better, keep you warmer and inhibit condensation on your mattress.

Special Days in August

  • August 1, National Mountain Climbing Day
  • August 4, Campfire Day
  • August 4, U.S. Coast Guard Day
  • August 10, National S’mores Day
  • August 18, National Honey Bee Awareness Day
  • August 20, World Mosquito Day
  • August 31, National Trail Mix Day

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. Tell us the story behind the picture, and remember to identify people and pets. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird-watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

The People’s Creamery

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

At 42,000 square feet, the new Tillamook Creamery is more than 50 percent larger than Tillamook’s previous visitor experience.

With its storied history and long legacy of producing premium dairy products, the Tillamook County Creamery Association is one of Oregon’s most beloved institutions.

Shannon Lourenzo loves cows.

For the farmer-owner and board chairman of the Tillamook County Creamery Association, his roughly 600 dairy cows are like extended family.

Ask Shannon about his cows, and his mood livens. He’ll tell you how they all have unique personalities and endearing quirks that make the stress of dairy farming worthwhile. He’ll tell you about Holstein cows (black and white fur) and Jersey cows (brown fur) and how Jerseys, which are generally smaller than Holsteins and produce less milk, have a higher yield of butter fat and protein—the components used to make cheese and other dairy products.

“I was born and raised in the dairy business, and I love it,” Shannon says with a subtle drawl. “To do this, you really have to love it. It’s a seven-day-a-week job, and I mean it when I say I can’t wait to wake up every morning and do it all again.”

While the tedium of business management commands much of his time, Shannon wakes every morning before dawn to feed his cows. He prefers to handle his own veterinary work and is always making time for his true passion: cows.

You could say cows are sacred in Tillamook County.

Shannon and his family are one of almost 90 farming families who comprise the Tillamook County Creamery Association. Their motto, “Dairy done right,” is a sort of gospel they live by. The TCCA’s farmer-owners are stewards of a 109-year-old legacy of producing premium dairy products.

“As a co-op, we’re here to serve our members, which are the suppliers of the milk,” says TCCA President and CEO Patrick Criteser. “The owners of our company are farming families who think in generational terms rather than quarterly or annual projections.

“We’re always thinking about the whole big picture, and it motivates us to think about stewardship. We uphold that value of stewardship, which we define as doing the right thing for all stakeholders for the long term.”

Since its inception, TCCA has maintained its core values and traditions. The co-op has used the same cheddar-cheese recipe since 1894 when renowned cheesemaker Peter McIntosh brought his recipe to Tillamook County. He eventually earned the nickname “Cheese King of the Coast.”

Over the years, Tillamook dairy products have won close to 700 awards, including a win for World’s Best Medium Cheddar Cheese at the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest.

Loved by Oregonians all over the state, the Tillamook brand is a revered institution intricately woven into Oregon’s cultural DNA.

“We’re a Tillamook-only household,” says 15-year-old Matthew Manske of Albany, Oregon. “Tillamook cheese is what my great-grandparents and grandparents always had. It’s what my parents love. It’s a family tradition that’s been passed on through the generations.”

TCCA officially formed in 1909 when several small creameries came together to ensure all cheese made in the region met the same standard of quality. But the Tillamook legacy dates to 1851 when the Tillamook Valley’s first settlers saw opportunity in the area’s wet, coastal climate. With lush, green grass as far as the eye could see, Tillamook was ideal for raising dairy cows, and dairy farming quickly became a prevalent trade.

Tillamook County is on the Oregon Coast, just south of the state’s northernmost county. In the 1850s, getting products to market in Portland and other more populous areas presented a major logistical challenge. In addition to having no means of refrigeration to preserve milk, navigating the rough wagon trails through the mountains and dense forest took far too long.

Farmers turned to cheese making as a matter of necessity and delivered their products to Portland by river on a schooner called the Morning Star. Today, the schooner features prominently on the cooperative’s logo, and Tillamook’s products carry the Morning Star to markets all over the world.

“In my visits to Asia, I got to see Tillamook cheese not only in Beijing, but I saw it in Japan,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said June 19, addressing a crowd gathered for the new Tillamook Creamery’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I’m hoping on my next trip to Vietnam that I will see it there as well.”

Against the backdrop of a clear, blue sky, with a Jersey cow’s massive portrait staring out wide-eyed above the creamery entrance, Brown praised the Tillamook Creamery and cooperative for being “proudly and uniquely Oregon.”

Designed by Seattle-based architecture firm Olson Kundig and built by Portland-based Precision Construction, the new 42,000-square-foot creamery is more than 50 percent larger than the previous facility, which attracted more than 1.3 million visitors each year. Now that the new creamery is open, that number appears to be growing.

“The response to this new visitor experience has been overwhelming,” Patrick says. “Opening those doors at 8 a.m. the first day and seeing the line all the way out to the parking lot was so thrilling, but also a little panic-inducing. And we have not seen it let up.”

Patrick says since its official opening June 20, the new creamery has been jam-packed with between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors daily.

Adjacent to the company’s flagship manufacturing facility and headquarters, the new creamery features a larger indoor dining area and outdoor covered patio, a new menu created in partnership with Portland chef Sarah Schafer of Irving Street Kitchen, an expanded ice cream counter featuring every flavor of Tillamook Ice Cream, a coffee and yogurt bar, an enhanced viewing experience of Tillamook’s cheese production and packaging operations, a small theater that features videos about how Tillamook products are made, and an in-depth farm exhibit where visitors can learn about cows, dairy technology and farm life.

“This new visitor experience is one of the most exciting things that’s happened for us in years,” says Shannon. “Consumers want to know what’s in their food and where it comes from, and to have the opportunity to tell our story and share what makes us so unique and special—that’s what I’m most excited about. When people come and experience the creamery, they walk away Tillamook fans.”

Matthew Manske and his father, Kevin, say they’re a testament to the creamery’s fan-making effects. Summer visits to the old Tillamook Cheese Factory were a family tradition when Kevin was growing up—one he was sure to pass on to his kids.

“We had a beach house in Rockaway Beach, and we always stopped at the cheese factory along the way,” Kevin says.

Kevin has made the same summer trips with his kids, so Matthew has his own share of cherished Tillamook experiences.

“We always go for Tillamook because it’s a special brand that we have so many memories with, and because it truly is great cheese,” Matthew says.

As a sixth-generation Oregonian, Patrick says the brand is in his blood too. He has many cherished memories from visiting the factory, but his favorite happened in the summer of 2012.

Excited by an opportunity to join the company, Patrick visited the factory with his family to ponder being part of the organization.

“There were a couple of guys out front, standing near their Harley Davidson motorcycles, with their leather jackets and big beards,” Patrick says, recalling the scene with a chuckle. “One of them was holding up a block of cheese with a big smile, and the other was taking his picture. Looking around at all the families with young kids and grandparents who were bringing their kids and younger couples and Harley Davidson guys, I was just thinking how this company and the brand sort of transcend all of these different demographics in such an exciting way. And it just feels like such a happy place to be for everyone.”

Shannon shares Patrick’s affinity for the co-op and the deep sense of pride that comes with membership.

“For small farmers in the dairy business, it’s hard to compete against modern-day agriculture,” Shannon says. “Where we’re unique is we have this brand that enables us to continue to be small farms and thrive going forward.

“To have a co-op that is truly here for us that can provide so many programs and services that help the farmer-owners—it’s really special. There’s just no place like it. Every time I walk into a supermarket and see our products everywhere, I feel so much pride.”

The new Tillamook Creamery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Labor Day and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Labor Day through mid-June. Go to for more information. And check out this video to learn more about the Tillamook story. 

Photographing Funerals

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Johnny Grimm touches foreheads with his deceased mother, Barbara. 
Photos by David LaBelle

I watched from a distance as Johnny approached the casket. He had shown little emotion to this point, greeting people, shaking hands, talking about his beloved mother. Then came the moment: The floodgates opened and he could hold back his tears no more.

My own eyes blurring, I stayed focused on him and made five or six pictures of my cousin. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see several heads turn and cast puzzled, concerned looks at me. I could read their thoughts: How dare this guy shoot pictures of this raw moment of grief?

It was a tender, some might even say private, moment. But neither Johnny nor his brother, Arthur, felt any intrusion. They know photography is one of the ways I experience and make sense of the world.

For me, photographing a funeral is less about showing loss and grief and more about celebrating love and connection during these times.

There is a time to make pictures and a time to put the camera down and share what is happening. It is a matter of knowing the difference.

I remember a funeral in Kansas for a little girl struck and killed by a car. I practically watched her die in the street.

Her mother asked if I would make a few pictures of her only daughter in the casket. I agreed. But many of those gathered neither knew me nor were aware of the mother’s request. Several people yelled at me and threatened to fight.

Grief—especially when born of the sudden death of a child—can be wild, unreasonable and dangerous. For some swimming in heartache, attacking others (like a photographer) is a way to cope with their frustration and show how much they care.

Often, their anger is an act of displaced aggression.

Photographing funerals is not for the faint of heart. Making meaningful pictures in emotionally charged situations requires a little courage and a lot of confidence that comes only through clear motives. We should be careful not to judge another’s intentions.

If we have been taught it is disrespectful to make pictures at funerals, during church services or moments of pain, we naturally view the photographer as an insensitive voyeur.

It takes resolve to deflect the stares and whispers of those wondering how you can be so cruel, heartless or insensitive to make a picture at such a time. Here are a few tips:

  • Dress so as not to draw undue attention to yourself. The more I can blend in and become invisible, the better.
  • Move slowly and deliberately. Show reverence for the dead and those gathered to pay their respects.
  • Deliberately choose the moments you press the shutter. Do not overshoot. Be an artist, thoughtfully composing moments you feel best tell the story and represent the event.
  • Make eye contact. Allow people to see into your heart. I may smile, but I do so subtly.
  • Avoid using flash unless you have talked with the family and they are comfortable with you being close enough to make pictures with flash.
  • Read the situation. Watch faces and body movements to measure volatility. Remember that sudden, young, violent deaths call for extra caution.
  • Respect religious and cultural customs and traditions by doing your homework. Jewish funerals tend to be different than Native American funerals or wakes.
  • Let an officiate or family member know your intentions. I avoid asking permission, lest I empower another to keep me from doing what I have determined I have a legal and moral right to do. However, I usually let them know why I am there, and find a place where I will not be in the way, yet still can make meaningful pictures. If an officiate asks that I not use flash, I grant them that small sense of control.

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

An Exploration of Text

Monday, June 25th, 2018

At right, Sarah Bean White creates sculptures from books that inspire her creativity, and then places them in individual and museum collections.

Sarah Bean White is a lifelong lover of books. She loves to read them, talk about them, explore them and ponder them.

She has taken her passion to another level: turning literature in to new art.

“I buy old used books from independent booksellers from all over the country,” says Sarah, who lives in Gold Beach, Oregon, with her jazz musician husband, Chris. “I carve them up with an Exacto knife and then I use pencil to create the shadows. Then I glue all the pages back together again so it’s a solid book again. Once the carving itself is finished, I situate it with pieces of wood and metal­—all kinds of found objects.”

Sarah came to her art fresh from the University of Chicago, where she studied literature and philosophy. She knew she didn’t want to work for someone else, but also that she wanted to work with her hands. She parlayed those desires into an apprenticeship for renowned collage artist Roderick Slater, initially by crafting the frames for his art.

“Slater didn’t really want a mentee,” Sarah says. “He was this curmudgeon. It really was a traditional apprenticeship, sort of a subsidized learning opportunity. I had no formal training with visual art. I wanted to do the frames because it was a job where I could be self-employed.

“I loved books so much. I wanted a way to share that. That was really the impetus for this work. The beautiful thing about visual art is it can be communicated in moments. You can communicate the idea to people who don’t understand your native language. It can be taken in in moments by anyone who speaks any language. It’s unique that way.”

After working with Roderick for several years, Sarah started making her own collages by combining poetry with art. Five years ago, she began exploring book carving.

“There wasn’t a first book that I cut up,” she says. “There were hundreds of practice books that I cut up that were not memorable. One has to make their mistakes and get the bad pieces out somewhere, I guess. I was cutting up books that I was buying at library book sales and thrift stores. It took me years to refine this into something that was worth seeing. Worth doing, really.”

Sarah travels around the world, collecting old books from other countries and studying their culture through the words. The Library of Congress commissions her book carvings to sell in its gift shop and even featured her work on the cover of its Christmas catalog.

Other commissions come from individuals looking for a unique piece of art, often built around a book of personal importance.

“I did a really cool project just this fall,” Sarah says. “It was for a hand surgeon. She sent me her textbook with all these images of hands. Working with my hands with a sharp blade carving into this book all about damaged hands was challenging. I really experienced the project.”

Another involved the history of American theater. Sarah worked with old playbills and the text from plays, then combined those with a variety of artifacts, including photos from staged plays and old ticket stubs.

“I’m working on a piece right now that is really challenging,” Sarah says. “The family of a pastor from Atlanta sent me his family Bible, his robe, pictures of him with Martin Luther King. It has his license for when he became a pastor. I even found an old Greyhound bus ticket from his Bible from when he went to the civil rights march. I am studying the material now to really do it justice. With sculpture, you can’t fix a mistake.”

Sarah says the cool thing about her projects is that parts of the books are still readable.

“You are able to look at the artwork and get a feel for the book,” she says. “It’s really an exploration of the whole text. I think of them as reliquaries for books that are madly loved. You take this book you love and put it in a case and people can look at it and talk about it.

“We all should be talking about books more. It’s a hard thing sometimes to spontaneously bring up in conversation. I see it every time I do a show. It starts a whole new dynamic of conversation.”

For more information on Sarah’s artwork, go to or

Don’t Ruin the Moment

Monday, June 25th, 2018

Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Art Spiegelman speaks at Kent State University along with a plastic water bottle that appears to get equal billing.
© Photo by David LaBelle

I remember the first time one of my young sons used a foul word to describe a natural body function. He waited for his mother’s sharp response and was surprised when she repeated the word again and again, loudly, and even began using it in a singing sentence.

It wasn’t the response either he, his brother or I expected. Let’s just say it took some of the gas out of their new word.

Since endless articles offer tips for making better pictures—I have done my share—I decided to try a little reverse psychology to help you make better pictures.
Here are a few ways you can ruin breathtaking scenes and beautiful moments.

The dreaded plastic water bottle. Want to visually pollute a beautiful, natural scene? Include a plastic drinking water bottle in your picture. The challenge used to be making an interesting and natural picture without a water glass or loud promotional banner in the background, but those distractions were nothing compared to the ever-present plastic water bottles.

The clear, shiny water bottle is becoming the signature of our time. We find it in every business meeting, in locker rooms, positioned at every podium—always visually screaming “look at me.” It will be an easy mark for historians and archeologists assigned with dating an era. They will say, “Oh that was the pre- or post-plastic water bottle era. Maybe it will even replace the eagle as our most-recognized national symbol?

We can electronically remove these ugly blemishes from our pictures with programs such as Photoshop, but then we would be lying and altering history, creating an inaccurate portrait of our time.

Someone on a cellphone, laptop or iPod. In the beginning it was a novelty, like pictures of people talking on telephones. You don’t see someone tied to a cord while talking much anymore.

It wasn’t many years ago I gave the assignment to a college photo class, challenging them to see if they could make a picture with two or more people on a cellphone in the same frame. Now, the challenge is to make a picture of 20 of more people in a public place without someone on a cellphone, iPod or laptop.

While I still like photographing people on their cellphones because they seldom notice me, too many pictures are becoming like our world—too visually noisy.

Leave your camera bag, bicycle or car in the picture. Seeing how many times we could get a picture published with our vehicle in the background was one of the games some of us played as newspaper photographers. We did this during outdoor portrait sessions, parades, even news scenes. Hey, every occupation looks for ways to have fun and break the monotony.

But accidentally leaving distracting, attention-stealing items in your compositions can be the difference between an artist and a picture snapper.

Use flash to create a sharp, artificial feel to your pictures. If there is enough light to make pictures and capture spontaneous moments, avoid flash. Artificial flash is, well, artificial. It changes, even kills, the natural mood of a scene and calls undo attention to you and the camera.

Flash is a great accent and necessary illuminator with some types of photography. But for subtle, quiet, natural moments, turn your flash off.

Like golf course signs that warn us to watch out for rattlesnakes or alligators, we need invisible mental warnings reminding us to pay attention to those loud, manmade objects that can harm our natural and pristine pictures.

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