Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Celebrating Hats Every Day

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Pat Griswold takes organizing her hat collection very seriously. She keeps everything labeled and categorized so she can find each of her 500 hats.
Photos by Sarah Spratling

January 15 is National Hat Day, but Pat Griswold of Carlin, Nevada, doesn’t wait until January to celebrate. Pat has collected more than 500 hats dating from 1912 to the 1960s, so any day is a great day to wear a hat.

“Some are elegant classics and others just make you laugh,” says Pat, 85, who started her museum-quality collection in 1985 after buying some hats at an auction. “The ideas behind some designs are unbelievable and creative with the use of feathers or ribbons.”

The hats are stored in her basement in neat stacks from floor to ceiling. Each box has a photo on it, showing the dressy vintage hat inside.

Pat’s late husband, Lee, liked to joke about one of his favorites.

“It’s black with feathers on it,” says Pat. “He said it looked like someone shot a crow and the feathers landed on my head.”

Women’s dress hats are still in vogue in some places, Pat says.

“Extravagant hats with wide brims are a must at the Kentucky Derby,” she says. “Women in the British royal family have always worn fashionable hats, too.”

Pat says her hats range in value from about $6 to more than $175, depending on their condition and how unusual they are.

“They’re all fascinating,” she says. “Every hat is unique and has a story waiting to be told.”

Give Credit Where It is Due

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

By having a vision and waiting for a modern automobile to pass and contrast those autos pictured, I added my signature to one of the beautiful floodwall murals designed and painted by Robert Dafford and the Dafford Muralists of Lafayette, Louisiana, on the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky. The project began in 1996; the last panel was completed in 2007.
Photo by David LaBelle

When putting your signature on another artist’s work, be respectful and add value

I remember walking into a café in Arizona and being met by a large photographic print of the Grand Canyon. What struck me first was not the majesty of the beautiful cavity, but the size of the photographer’s name printed in giant, bold type beneath the image.

How arrogant, I thought. The photographer had done so little—basically made a record, a copy of another’s artwork—then had the nerve to shout his name on the print as though he had done something great, too.

His bold name sought equal billing with the One, the artist who fashioned the canyon.

If you created something beautiful or even unique and I put my name on it, wouldn’t you feel robbed?

OK, so I am being a bit dramatic here, but it is to make a point: Taking a few snapshots with a digital or film camera of another’s creation, another’s artwork, does not make me an artist. It makes me a copy machine.

I am not diminishing the eye of the artist—whether with brush or camera—but unless I add new composition, light, vision, perspective, interpretation or point of view, I am little more than a copy machine.

If I put my name on another’s artwork, isn’t this a form of visual plagiarism?

Reproducing another’s artwork is a way of honoring the artist. But when we make a picture of another’s artwork—painting, mural, sculpture, statue, building, bridge, etc.—then strut around like we have done something great, we ought to consider who gets the greater credit.

By incorporating human forms or dramatic light, interesting foreground or background, you create new composition and reverently put your signature on another’s artwork, be it landscape, mural, architecture or bronze or marble sculpture.

God gives us everything—the light, the color, the eyes to see and compose and interpret, even the heart to appreciate. He allows us, even encourages us, to add our point of view.

With any creation, any art, shouldn’t we tread quietly, reverently, giving honor and glory to the true artist?

Challenge yourself to put your signature on another’s artwork, like comments in a gallery book. See the creation in a different, maybe dramatic, light. Compose a portion of the artwork using shadows and life forms reacting or participating in the artwork.

As with any gift, we ought to give thanks to the creator.

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

Add a Little Spice to Your Outdoor Routine

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Orienteering maps have more detail than regular maps, including trails, buildings and elevation contours. Even things as small as boulders, fences, pits and springs appear on orienteering maps.
Map courtesy of Columbia River Orienteering Club

Once in a while, it’s fun to add a change of pace to outdoor workout routines to break up the monotony. One way to do that is with orienteering.

Orienteering is called the “thinking sport” because it combines mental challenges with physical ones. It is an activity for young and old, athlete and nature lover.

Participants are given a map of the event area with various terrain features circled and numbered. The object is to find all of the terrain features—in order—as quickly as possible. Competitive participants run from point to point, while most people enjoy the course at a more leisurely pace.

Multiple courses are offered at each event. They are set up on the basis of experience, with something for beginners as well as advanced participants.

Map-reading skills are more important than knowing how to use a compass. The compass is primarily used to orient the map to the terrain or to determine direction of travel. Most organized events provide brief training sessions for newbies, including how to use a map and compass in tandem.

There are two orienteering clubs in Florida: Florida Orienteering in the Orlando area and Suncoast Orienteering in the Bradenton area. The clubs hold events from late fall through the end of spring.

For more information, visit the Florida Orienteering website at It also features information about events hosted by Suncoast Orienteering.

Outdoors 101: Use Caution With Cotton

Cotton socks are comfy for relaxing or kicking around, but they may not be the best choice when picking up the pace. Cotton sucks up sweat and water, clings to the skin when wet and dries slowly. Those properties increase the risk of blisters. Synthetic and light merino wool socks are better choices for active sports.

Bike Tires: Rotate or Not?
Rotating car or truck tires is highly recommended because it evens out wear and extends tire life. However, bike safety advocates do not recommend rotating bicycle tires, since it can be hard to keep track of mileage and wear. Instead, they suggest replacing tires as they wear out.

There’s No Time Like the Present for Bargains
January is one of the best months for shopping. Most outdoor stores have a deep-discount section, such as the bargain cave at Cabelas. They often have more selection right after Christmas than at other times of the year, due to holiday closeouts and overstocked items.

Mail-order retailers offer the same kind of deals in spades. Two companies you should check out online are Sierra Trading Post ( and Campmor ( Both retailers offer lots of closeout specials this time of year.

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.

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.

Bridges and Angels

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Henry and a friend’s dog, Dutch, in a classic Norman Rockwell-style slice of Americana photo. “It is a moment I will cherish forever—a reminder of a time when Henry, my youngest child, was a carefree cherub,” David says.

Embracing traumatic life experiences, David LaBelle captures quiet moments and humor in pictures

David LaBelle knows first-hand how grief can shape a person’s life. He also knows the power a positive mentor can hold over an unruly teenager. He has used both grief and teaching as cornerstones of his professional photography career.

David has been employed at 20 newspapers and magazines in nine states since 1967, and is featured in this magazine. He has taught at four universities—despite only having a high school diploma—and seven of his students have earned Pulitzer Prizes for photography.

He describes his body of photography as a combination of “human and humor,” and says that to be human means to have extremities in both joy and sorrow.

“Often, humor and sadness are on display at the same time,” David says.


The Student Years
Looking at his list of professional accolades, it may be hard to believe that in 1966 David nearly became a high school dropout. He says three people were truly instrumental in his life.

“My mother was my matrix,” he says, “and there was my high school photography teacher, Denning McArthur.”

The third person was Margaret McKean, a news reporter with the Ventura County Star-Free Press from 1969 to 1979.

Raised on a 10-acre farm in Oakview, California, David loved learning and says he was curious about life. However, sixth grade meant change in the form of a bus ride to an urban school. The city school was a place of turmoil. David had to take to his fists in a “hit-or-be-hit” lifestyle.

“That was a hard time for me as a kid,” he recalls.

David’s hands still bear scars from those years.

He had attended fewer than 40 days of education his sophomore year at Ventura High School when a school truant officer finally caught up with him.

What had he been doing? Mostly hunting and hiding out in the hills, but also taking photos with his mom’s Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera.

David says about the only thing that kept him coming to school at all was the chance to walk down the hallway near the photography classroom and stare at work displayed on the walls.

Photography class was popular, the waiting list was long and David was a troubled student with a poor track record. School officials told him there was no way he would be allowed to enroll.

Seeing her son struggle was hard for Jeannette LaBelle, says David. In secret, Jeannette sought out Denning, the school’s photography instructor, and begged him to take on her son.

“He told me 25 years later what she’d done,” David recalls. “He said, ‘I couldn’t say no to her. I had 300 other people waiting to get into class, but she pleaded for her son.’”

Once enrolled in Denning’s class, David says his life as a student changed.

“Photography gave me a reason to get up and go to school—it gave me a voice,” he says. “I wasn’t a good writer or speaker. In this way I could show what I felt.”

David’s grades improved and he became a focused student.

Denning’s class was more than a photography basics tutorial.

“He read to us about the Vietnam War,” David explains. “He taught us that life was first and photography was second.”


The Big Flood
David was a 17-year-old high school senior when devastation hit Ventura County in January 1969. The skies poured and the rivers flooded in monumental proportion.

The LaBelle home was completely lost as San Antonio Creek rushed through it. David, his mother, younger brother Steven, sister Susan, and two neighborhood friends, John and Cindy—who had spent the night—were tossed into the current. David’s father—separated from his family when he went to his nearby Quonset hut garage—was clinging to the roof of the structure when he was plucked to safety by a helicopter.

David watched as his mother was swept away by the current—one of 13 people who died in the flood.

“Each of us—except my mother—were rescued by helicopter, me being the last,” David says. “I almost drowned. I was barely alive.

“Watching my mother die—well, that was going to change me, of course.”

A day or two after the flooding, David recalls a news reporter calling his father, Charles LaBelle, and asking to speak with the family about their experiences. It was then that David met Margaret McKean.

“She was so compassionate,” he says of the woman who interviewed him. “She was professional, but she was so compassionate and I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like her. I want to be there to help (people at their most vulnerable times). I want to be a bridge for them. I want to be a comfort.’”

David returned to school and to Denning’s class.

“He never said much,” David remembers of the time, but Denning pulled David aside after class one day to give him a quilt and share a few quiet words.

The instructor’s steadfastness was an anchor for the grieving teen. Their friendship would continue for the rest of Denning’s life.


Survivor Turns Photojournalist
As David took stock of his life after the flood, he realized this event and the people most influential to him would be a platform for his life focus.

“I thought, ‘I want to be a teacher like him, and a journalist like her, and I want to have compassion and see the best in people, like my mother,’” he says.

David took a job with the Ventura County Star-Free Press and began his career as a photojournalist while still in high school. Like many aspiring photographers, he yearned for recognition.

“When I was younger, like anybody, I was hungry for awards,” he admits.

David began earning them. His first professional award came at age 19, when he received the National Press Photographers Association’s Region 10 Photographer of the Year Award. He captured the award the next two years, too.

“Suddenly, I was in this national spotlight,” David recalls. “I went from Ventura as a real hot shot.”

He yearned for a Pulitzer Prize, and took news jobs in some of the hardest-hitting areas in California, including Ontario and San Bernardino.

“Both cities were violent,” David says. “I think during my first week in Ontario there were eight people killed.”

Burnt out, he took a job doing manual labor in the California oil fields. David realized he was not making a difference, so he resumed his photojournalism career, spending a year at a paper in Anchorage before returning to California. When the newspaper in Goleta folded, the ownership group offered him a job as a reporter/photographer at a paper in Kansas.

“After a month or so, it was clear I was a far better photographer than reporter or writer, so they made me their first full-time photographer,” David says. “I’ve always been a kind of brush breaker. I’m going to go through the stickers and break a path.”


Becoming a Teacher
About this time, David realized his professional focus had changed.

“Twenty or 30 years ago I decided I was going to be a better teacher than a globetrotter photographer,” he says. “I also wanted a family. That was a choice I made, and I wouldn’t change it. In my life, the greatest thing that defines me is that I am a connector.”

Throughout his news career, David always taught photography on the side.

“I was a year out of high school when I taught my first class,” he says.

A conversation with the photo editor at The Sacramento Bee changed his life.

“He was from Western Kentucky University, and he said they needed a photo teacher there,” David says. “I didn’t have a college degree, but he convinced me to interview for the job anyway.”

David landed the job at age 36. Western Kentucky had created the first Photojournalist in Residence program in the country, recognizing work experience was equal to a college degree.

“The students were so hungry,” David says. “They asked so many questions. We turned that sucker around.”

He went on to instruct students at the University of Kentucky and Kent State. In 2016, he began building a program at a university in Florence, Italy.

David feels deeply that he made the correct choice balancing his talents.

“A friend once told me, ‘David, since I’ve known you, you’ve always wanted to change the world—and you do that through teaching,’” he says, then chuckles. “I tell my students, ‘You are my epistle read by all men.’”

David has never stopped chronicling life through a camera lens—and he especially delved into it working alongside his students. He has worked on special projects featuring both homeless people and those in the final stages of life.

As a photographer, David says his greatest influences have been Jesus Christ and Norman Rockwell. He wants to showcase life and love through the everyday man.

David says that showing love through action is the most important gift he received.

He says he often thinks of the kid he once was, and hopes how he lives his life honors those who helped him.

Today, David travels the country hosting photography workshops. He covers basic questions about using a camera, but his focus is how to connect with a subject.

“It’s the human connection that’s at risk of going extinct,” David says. “We had better take time to preserve what’s important.”

For David LaBelle’s perspectives on photography and life in general, visit his blog,

Journey to the End of the Earth

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Ron Carpenter changes a tire on his Austrian-made KTM 690 Enduro motorcycle. It has a custom gas tank, special seat, LED headlight and long-range tires

Ron Carpenter of The Dalles, Oregon, wasn’t always certain where the next road would lead, but he learned uncertain roads often yield unexpected rewards.

That’s the way it is with adventures of a lifetime.

Ron’s adventure was a 17,000-mile motorcycle journey through Central and South America he began a year ago this month.

The retired Air Force flight engineer, Job Corps instructor and former substitute teacher says he had always dreamed of taking a big trip by motorcycle.

On January 9, 2016, Ron set out from Yuma, Arizona, on a three-month ride. His goal was to reach the southern tip of South America.

Ron says it all began about two and a half years ago when he was visited by friends taking a motorcycle trip around the world.

But riding around the world would take time he did not have. With his parents still alive and his wife, Diane, at home, he did not want to be gone that long.

But traveling through South America was within reach. At 67, he needed to pursue his dream or give it up.

Ron joined forces with two veteran riders for the trip: Lynne Clark, 72, and Tom Jackson, 65, both well known in the motorcycle community.

Ron met Lynne in Yuma and they drove down the Baja Peninsula, camping along the way. Tom joined the group in La Paz, Mexico, near the southern tip of Baja, and the trio ferried to the mainland for the rest of their journey.

“We were on the west coast of Mexico mostly,” Ron says while tracing the journey with his fingertip on a globe through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama in Central America. In South America, they traveled the west coast through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina.
The border crossings in Central America were particularly difficult.

“They were very long and confusing,” Ron says. “People are trying to steal from you, cheat you and sell you stuff. People were walking around with shotguns all over the place—guards, mostly.”

South of the Panama Canal, the ride was interrupted by the Darien Gap, the only break in the 30,000-mile Pan-American Highway system.

Ron and his companions flew to Bogota before continuing their trip. Time was a critical factor if they were to reach Ushuaia at the southern end of the continent before winter weather set in.

Meanwhile, at home, Diane followed Ron’s travels through his GPS locator. The two communicated via Skype and email when Ron was able to find an Internet connection.

As Ron and Tom got closer to Ushuaia, they met people of all nationalities driving, bicycling and hiking with the same destination in mind and willing to help one another along the way. Some, however, would not complete the trip.

“This is where things got real interesting,” Ron says.

Outside Ushuaia, a group of protestors seeking higher wages blocked the road with shipping containers. It looked like the end of the road, but Ron was undeterred.

“There was a woman there that I talked to—one of the protestors—and I told her it was raining, cold and wet, and I really wanted to get to a hotel,” he says. “She spoke a bit of English and got a young man to lead us on a secret way up into the hills.”

Tom chose not to continue, but Ron pressed on.

“I’d traveled for months, 17,000 miles,” he says. “I was going to make my destination.”

He stayed for two days in Ushuaia, celebrating with others who had made the journey.

The last leg of Ron’s journey was made solo, from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, a city of 22 million people. Ron says he had never been anywhere so massive.

After months focused on the road ahead and reaching his next destination, Ron enjoyed a final celebration.

“There were a lot of little shops, a zillion places to eat and have coffee,” he says. “We were going to fly out of there the next day, so we thought, ‘Finally, we can let our guard down.’”

Christmas Morning in Mackay

Friday, November 25th, 2016
while visiting Mackay, Idaho, Santa gives bags full of treats to brothers Quinton and Kyson on Christmas morning as their mother, Sarah Frazee, watches and takes pictures.

while visiting Mackay, Idaho, Santa gives bags full of treats to brothers Quinton and Kyson on Christmas morning as their mother, Sarah Frazee, watches and takes pictures.

Since 1925, local elves have ensured that Santa visits this small Idaho town

For nearly a century, children in the central Idaho town of Mackay have known Santa Claus will not only come to town on Christmas morning, but he will also visit each of them.

With a little help from altruistic elves affiliated with local American Legion Post No. 16, Santa rides on the back of a firetruck with siren blaring to deliver paper bags brimming with peanuts, holiday candy and fruit.

The tradition in the remote mountainous town of 500 started in 1925, five years after the post was chartered.

“The looks on some kids’ faces is unforgettable,” says Rick Hanni, 70, second vice-commander and the jolly old elf himself for 16 years. “These days, kids get so many presents, but I think they still appreciate what our Santa gives them.”

Rick appreciated Santa’s candy deliveries when he was a boy.

“In our neighborhood, there were about 30 kids,” he says. “We all ran to one street corner to wait. Back then, it was a really big deal to get candy because most families didn’t buy it often.”

There is never a shortage of volunteer Santas.

“I loved being Santa, but finally had to quit because my knees didn’t like me jumping on and off the truck for three hours,” says Rick.

A few days before Christmas, volunteers of the 75-member post form an assembly line to fill the bags, a labor of love that takes about two to three hours.

“I remember my dad filling the bags in the ’40s,” says Rick, who carried on the family tradition after joining the legion in 1967. “We fill about 200 bags and keep some without peanuts in case kids are allergic to them.”

As volunteers work, they cannot help but wonder if the weather will be nasty or nice on Christmas day—not that a pesky blizzard could stop the tradition.

“One year it snowed 4 feet on Christmas Eve,” says Rick, who says he is immune to cold weather after doing wintertime service calls as a lineman for Lost River Electric Co-op before retiring.

“That Christmas, we couldn’t get around on the firetruck,” Rick says. “We had to call Gerald Twitchell, who let us use his sleigh and horses. That’s what’s nice about a small town. You can count on people for help.”

Even on frigid Christmas mornings, Santa knows he can count on warm-hearted elves to help him.

“It’s a three-generation tradition for our family,” says Trisha Carlson. “My dad used to help sack up and deliver the candy. As a child, I rode on top of the firetruck to help deliver the candy, and my daughters, Colie and Tia, have dressed up like elves to help with the deliveries. Tia still loves being an elf. We look forward to it every year.”

The December candy delivery is just one of the post’s philanthropic projects.

“We have a tradition of giving year-round, not just at the holidays,” says Rick. “Whatever we do, we can count on our local businesses and our auxiliary for help.”

When in Doubt, Stick With the Basics

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Family and friends appreciate having something to work from when Christmas shopping. Indulge them by preparing a wish list. Be specific. Include brand, size, color and other important details.

Kids are easy to buy for, adults not so much—especially if they are serious about their outdoor pursuits. It’s not that they don’t want or need anything. Rather, their wants and needs are very specific. They prefer a particular brand, a certain model number, or a specific color or pattern. That is why many gift givers simply throw up their hands and buy outdoor enthusiasts a gift card instead.

But wait, there’s a better way to cop out. Buy them one of the basics. These are must-have items, and having one of each is never enough.

A knife. You can never have too many knives. They come in handy for so many things, in so many places:
in the house, shop, truck, tackle box, go bag and pocket. There is a price point for every budget. A good, basic knife sells for $20 or less, or you can spend hundreds of dollars for a high-end specialty blade. Popular brands include Kershaw, Gerber, Buck, Boker, Case, Columbia River, Benchmade and Chris Reeve.

A flashlight. You need almost as many flashlights as you do knives, for many of the same reasons. When shopping for a packable flashlight, think small, durable and bright. It is also useful to have one with an adjustable beam. Don’t forget headlamps, too. In some situations, they are preferable to a regular flashlight, especially when working on a task where both hands are needed.

An insulated mug. There’s nothing quite like a cup of your favorite beverage during an outdoor excursion, so a good insulated mug is essential. The latest generation of mugs are more ergonomic, more durable and do a better job of keeping beverages hot and cold. Tried-and-true Thermos brand mugs are still among the most popular, as are mugs made by Zojirushi. There are many other good choices, too.

Of course, if none of these ideas strikes your fancy, there’s always gift cards.

20 Stocking Stuffer Ideas to Kick-Start Your Brain
Consider this a brainstorming exercise. Here are 20 stocking stuffer ideas: hook sharpener, fire starter, waterproof matches, neck gaitor, hand warmer, whistle, pocket organizer, trail bars, compass, shooting glasses, ear plugs, waterproof notepad and pen, socks, knife sharpener, outdoor magazine subscription, insect repellent, LifeStraw water filter, zipper fix-it kit, paracord. See how many others you can come up with.
The 3 Most-Popular Fishing Books Today

  • “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway.
  • “Trout Bum” by John Gierach.
  • “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean.Source:

A Light in Winter
December 21 is National Flashlight Day. It is no accident this celebration falls on the first day of winter. It’s a reminder to locate your flashlights, check the batteries and replace as necessary.

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.


24authMany 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 coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Photographing Fog

Friday, November 25th, 2016
The secret to photographing fog is to recognize the scene changes dramatically in seconds. Watch as light cuts through the wet gray and dark shapes appear. Try to capture stunning, moody pictures, as at left. The picture from a re-enactment event appears, at first glance, as if it was made more than a century ago. There is little to say it is 21st century. Photos by David LaBelle

The secret to photographing fog is to recognize the scene changes dramatically in seconds. Watch as light cuts through the wet gray and dark shapes appear. Try to capture stunning, moody pictures, as at left. The picture from a re-enactment event appears, at first glance, as if it was made more than a century ago. There is little to say it is 21st century.
Photos by David LaBelle

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s gray or blue. It rolls. It crawls. It blankets. It’s annoying. It’s dangerous. It’s beautiful. It’s fog.

While I understand the temptation to stay inside and curl up near a cozy fire on gray, foggy mornings or evenings, you might be missing the best opportunity for some amazing pictures.

When temperatures change—especially cold air massaging warm, moist land—we are given spectacular, moody, fleeting scenes.

They are gifts to the eye and camera lens, if we are prepared to record them.

But photographing fog can be challenging.

As with most photography, planning and anticipating light and conditions is best. But even with methodical preparation, it is often the surprises—those unexpected marriages of color and movement—that make for the most memorable pictures.

It is the practice of most seasoned photographers to have a plan, but to be ready for the unexpected gifts nature has to offer.

The secret is to watch as light cuts through the wet gray. A scene can change dramatically in seconds when the sun rises and begins burning through the blankets of moisture. Anticipating this and being in position to record these wonderful, fleeting contrasts is critical.

It is important to remember in changing temperatures—especially when keeping your camera in a warm house or warm car—that your camera will fog up when suddenly introduced to cold fog.

I cannot tell you how many pictures I have missed when my camera fogged up while running from a warm house into the cold or dashing from a cold, air-conditioned room out into choking humidity. It is frustrating to watch moments escape while waiting for the fog on my lens to clear.

Give your camera and/or lens a minute or two to wake up and adjust before trying to shoot, although making pictures with a foggy lens does produce some surreal images.

Try to keep the camera in the temperature you will be shooting, maybe protected in the trunk of your car with the lens cap off. You can use a hair dryer to warm the camera body and lens if going from cold to hot.

Another important tip is not to remove the lens from the body, or the rear element of the lens will fog up. If using a DSLR with a mirror, it also can fog and will take a few minutes to adjust and clear before you can begin making pictures.

Following are more tips to help you prepare to capture those fleeting foggy scenes:

Be careful not to park your car near the roadside in thick fog. Other motorists struggling to see and navigate might decide to pull off the road until the fog lifts.

Turn off or disable your flash. Just like using bright beams to drive in fog, flash reflects and blinds.

Consider using manual focus. The autofocus on many cameras goes crazy, searching for some object or edge to grab hold of in the endless gray. Your eye can focus better than the searching lens. In a pinch, zone focus: Pick something of similar distance and shoot in that range.

Keep a soft, microfiber cloth handy to wipe away condensation on your lens or viewfinder as the camera and lens adjust to the cold.

To compensate for your camera’s meter, manually set your exposure and consider overexposing by one half to one full stop over what your meter is advising. Your meter is set to read for 18 percent gray, which means it makes pure white a quiet or dull gray. This renders snow or bright fog darker, grayer, even bluer than your eye sees.

Fog can be dangerous, but it also can produce some stunning, moody pictures.

As National Geographic photographer Sam Abel has often said while quoting his father, “Bad weather makes for good pictures.”


David LaBelledaveL_mug_2011 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

Embrace the True Spirit

Friday, November 25th, 2016
If you are handy with a sewing machine, gifts are at your fingertips. You can give your time to help someone make repairs, or you can lovingly create one-of-a-kind, personalized gifts especially for your loved ones. Photo by Brandon Pomrenke

If you are handy with a sewing machine, gifts are at your fingertips. You can give your time to help someone make repairs, or you can lovingly create one-of-a-kind, personalized gifts especially for your loved ones. Photo by Brandon Pomrenke

Abandon the holiday shopping madness and limit materialistic gift-giving

Advertisements fill the airwaves, creating a spend-spend-spend and shop-’til-you-drop mentality that plays with our emotions and our budgets.

Children clamor for the latest toy. Teens insist the newest electronic gadget is more than a want. They absolutely need it. Last year’s model is out of vogue.

Christmas morning can become exhausting as packages are ripped open and then quickly forgotten as the recipient moves on to the next gift.

According to recent polls, the average American spends about $800 on Christmas gifts. That does not count the money spent on travel, extra groceries, eating out, decorations, and small gifts for teachers and others who provide us with valued services.

The true spirit of Christmas and the holidays can be in danger of being washed away by the tsunami of materialism that makes us crave stuff we didn’t even know we needed.

Perhaps you want a break. The motivation could be financial, spiritual or both. Maybe you simply have a desire to pull back from the holiday madness and stop ceding control to retailers.

If so, consider gifts that are nonmaterialistic or that have a deeper value for the recipient or others.

The 12 Deeds of Christmas
How about giving the gift of yourself? Time spent visiting with someone could be far more precious than any item you could buy.

Regardless of your age—whether a child or adult—you have more to offer others than you may realize. What do you do with ease that others find a challenge or a chore?

Give a gift certificate of you. It is memorable and appreciated.

The options are limitless, but here are 12 ideas:

  • Car wash. Clean the inside and/or the outside of someone’s vehicle. They will smile and think of you as they drive their shiny car around.
  • Baby-sitting. What parents could not use a night out? How terrific to have a few baby-sitting coupons from a trusted friend or family member. Plus, you get to spend time with the kids.
  • Electronics repair. If you are a whiz in the digital world, someone can use your help.
  • Home cleaning or organizing. Books about tidying have topped the New York Times best-seller list, so a lot of people must share the desire to have a clean, organized home. Give them a hand.
  • Handyman. Paint a room in someone’s home, make repairs and do odd jobs around the house.
  • Dinners or desserts. Whether you are a gourmet cook or lean toward homemade comfort food, share some tasty gifts.
  • Yardwork. Some people love mowing, weeding, planting, trimming and raking. Others would be grateful for a volunteer to tackle those jobs.
  • Carpool. Parents are pulled in many directions. If you have time to spare, help out by picking up the kids.
  • Make the kids’ lunches. It is a relatively simple chore, but one less thing a busy parent has to do—and offers kids a nice change of pace.
  • Sewing repairs. Not everyone is talented with a needle and thread. If that is one of your gifts, eliminate the hassle and cost of a friend having to take projects to a seamstress.
  • Tutoring. What subjects do you enjoy? Kids usually behave better for someone other than their parents, and professional tutors are expensive.
  • A family recipe treasure-trove. Collect recipes and photos from friends and family, and assemble a cookbook. You can make it by hand or put together a digital collection.

Make One-of-a-Kind Gifts
The genuine happiness and smiles during unwrapping and revealing a gift are priceless—and there have been some pretty impressive gifts in recent years: iPads, iPhones, TVs, Beats headphones and other hot items snagged during Black Friday.

Consumers do love materialistic purchases, but what happened to good, old-fashioned crafted gifts?

Homemade gifts are some of the best things you can give because they capture the love and admiration you have for that special someone.

Get your creative juices flowing and start crafting one-of-a-kind gifts this holiday season. Here are some ideas to spark your imagination:

Layering up. Food items—especially sweets—are a great go-to for homemade gifts. Customize a food package layered in a Mason jar. Maybe it is your own cookie mix, with each ingredient carefully measured out and stacked on top of each other.

Want to make a special hot chocolate mix? Layer a Mason jar with four sections: one-quarter hot chocolate powder, one-quarter fluffy marshmallows, one-quarter chocolate chips, topped with one-quarter peppermint candies.

Tie a festive bow around the top of the jar. Be sure to attach a tag with directions and a sweet message. Small touches make all the difference.

Need ideas? Check Pinterest for inspiration.

Keep the memories alive with photos or memorabilia from a happy time spent together. Make a photo album with scrapbook or construction paper. Personalize it by narrating each photo with a caption recalling the special time. You can even make a complete storybook.

A shadow-box frame also is a perfect medium. What you can put inside is limitless—from movie and concert tickets to fun souvenirs you got on a vacation together.

You can keep photos in their original form or cut them into fun shapes and sizes to create a collage.
Include a special message or inspiring quote to add a loving touch.

Sew something spectacular. Handcrafted gifts from you are just as impressive—if not more so—as the stuff from the mall. If you are a beginner, start with pillowcases or a fabric pennant banner. If you are more advanced, consider sewing a customized tote bag, cosmetic bag or pajamas.
Keep in mind sewing can be time consuming, so if you plan to make a few different gifts, start early.

Pairing Gifts With Lasting Memories
Give the special people in your life experiential gifts that will leave them with a lifetime of memories. Think of the things each person likes to do, and tailor a gift to their interests.

If you enjoy buying traditional presents, look for something that complements your experiential gift.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Sports. Buy tickets to a game and wrap up a jersey of the person’s favorite player.
  • Music. Find a concert at a local venue and buy a CD by that performer.
  • Travel. Pair a carry-on travel bag and tickets to a far-away destination.
  • Adventure. Shopping for a daredevil? Give a gift certificate for skydiving, whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, zip lining or scuba diving. Add a T-shirt that has an image of the activity.
  • Pampering. Treat your loved ones to spa days, massages and luxurious skin-care treatments. Include a bottle of nail polish or some slippers.
  • Family fun. Amusement park passes can provide quality time together. Add a board game that is appropriate for all ages.
  • Food. Book a lunch or dinner sightseeing cruise, a regional food tour or a wine-tasting evening. Include a food item or a bottle of bubbly.
  • Nature. Create a voucher for a trip to a favorite hiking trail or park, or a kayaking or canoe trip. Wrap up a water bottle.
  • Fitness. A membership to a gym or yoga studio is remembered at each visit. Include a duffel bag or a mat in the recipient’s favorite color.
  • Gardening. Give a plant or bulbs along with tickets or a season pass to botanical gardens.
  • Museum. Virtually every interest and passion can be satisfied with a visit to a museum: art, space, science, music, history, children, automobiles, maritime and sports. Include a book on the topic.

Give Gifts With Meaning to Help Others

How about trying a gift that is outside the box? Rather than spend hours struggling to come up with a good present for friends and family members, give action-oriented gifts in their names to help people in communities and villages around the world.

Charitable organizations offer opportunities to give a variety of items. Whatever your budget and your recipient’s interests, a match can be found.

Here are a few organizations and gifts to consider:

  • Apopo ( The Belgian organization trains giant African rats to sniff out landmines and, in some countries, diagnose tuberculosis. For $7 a month, you can adopt a “HeroRat.”
  • CARE ( Support a fish farm for $32. Buy musical instruments for a classroom for $54. Beehives are $59. A sewing machine and training is $150. A farm with five animals is $215. An irrigation system is $265. A water truck is $10,000.
  • Communities in Schools ( Dedicated to keeping kids in school, this network partners with 161 affiliates in 25 states. For $200, you can give an at-risk child mentoring, counseling and other services for a year.
  • Compassion International ( Financing protection from parasites is $7. A mosquito net is $18. Garden seeds are $27. A safe playground is $36. A dental kit is $40. A baking class is $230. A computer lab is $1,200.
  • Heifer International ( For $20, you can buy a flock of ducks, chicks or geese. For $480, buy a knitter’s basket. A heifer is $500.
  • Himalayan Cataract Project ( A donation of $25 can provide life-changing surgery through this organization founded by two ophthalmologists.
  • International Rescue Committee ( Make a cash donation of any amount to help refugees who are fleeing violence in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the United States.
  • Malaika For Life ( Buy a bracelet handmade by women in Tanzania for $12 to $15 to raise money for malaria medicine. The organization was founded by a PBS reporter who contracted malaria while in Tanzania filming a documentary. She realized many in that country could not afford the $7 medication that saved her life.
  • Oxfam America ( For $25, you can provide books for kids. School supplies are $30. Irrigate a farmer’s land for four months for $40. A goat is $50. Train a midwife for $150. Help build a girls’ school for $1,500.
  • Trickle Up ( The organization lifts people out of extreme poverty through a “graduation program”—so called because people graduate from poverty. Cash donations fund a gift of a cow or other animal, training, a savings account and other support.
  • World Vision ( Pay $16 to provide two soccer balls. Five fruit trees are $30. A fishing kit is $50. Three solar lanterns are $60. A foot-powered water pump is $200.

Margo Young, Jeanelle D. Horcasitas, Julia Price and Chelle Cordero contributed to this story through

Close to a Dream Fulfilled

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
Bill Murlin has spent the past 30 years with guitar in hand, singing the Columbia River songs Woody Guthrie wrote during his one-month visit to the Pacific Northwest, including Grand Coulee Dam, above, and other places during his work for the Bonneville Power Administration. Photo by Sandy Bly

Bill Murlin has spent the past 30 years with guitar in hand, singing the Columbia River songs Woody Guthrie wrote during his one-month visit to the Pacific Northwest, including Grand Coulee Dam, above, and other places during his work for the Bonneville Power Administration.
Photo by Sandy Bly

Thirty years after his discovery of Woody Guthrie’s lost songs, Bill Murlin collaborates on recording

Folk music has been a defining thread in the tapestry of Bill Murlin’s life. He started performing while in college in the 1960s. Today, at the age of 75, he continues to take his show on the road.

Bill favors the works of the late, great icon Woody Guthrie—especially the 26 songs the radical songwriter penned during his 30-day stint toiling for the U.S. government to promote public power.

Partly that is because unearthing a long-forgotten cache of Woody’s Columbia River songs became a labor of love for Bill in the 1980s. He helped tell the story of the time Woody worked for the Bonneville Power Administration—a mission that continues.

“It’s always been my dream to see to it that all 26 songs that Woody wrote for BPA got heard,” says Bill. “I’ve always wanted to get all 26 songs recorded before I die, or before I’m unable to perform anymore.”

Thanks to a young musician who grew up along the Columbia River, Bill’s 30-year dream is close to becoming a reality. Fellow folksinger Joe Seamons is carrying on Bill’s passion for Woody’s music, partnering with Bill and others to record—for the first time—all of Woody’s Columbia River songs.

In March, recordings were completed in Portland and Seattle. Now, Joe and Bill are raising funds to release the double album, titled “Roll Columbia.”

“I’ve been performing these songs for over 30 years,” says Bill. “Everything was familiar to me, even the really obscure songs. It really felt good to go into the studio and sit in front of those microphones and play them until we got it right.”

A Quest to Find the Story and the Songs
Born to a military family in 1941—the same year Woody was writing his Columbia River songs—Bill spent his childhood bouncing around the country, finally landing in Spokane, Washington.

After graduating with a degree in broadcasting from Washington State University, he spent 16 years working in Portland as a radio disc jockey and radio and television news reporter. In 1979, he joined BPA’s public information office. He created and recorded press releases for more than 300 radio stations, filmed news releases for television stations, and produced internal and external videos for BPA.

While working in BPA’s basement studio, Bill stumbled upon a file that launched his search for all 26 of Woody’s Columbia River songs.

Bill was vaguely aware Woody had written songs for BPA, but says he never thought much about it.

“That file showed that not only had Woody Guthrie written songs, but he had worked at BPA to write the songs,” explains Bill. “He was not under contract like you might expect, but he was actually an employee of BPA, which I found rather fascinating.”

That discovery led to a long search for the songs, and a calling to make them available to the public.

Having performed some of Woody’s most famous songs, Bill was driven to nose around looking for clues about Woody’s employment.

In 1981, Richard Reuss, a folklorist at Wayne State University, gave Bill a copy of a 1945 letter from BPA to Woody that contained the lyrics to 24 of the 26 songs Woody had written for them.

Excited by his discovery, Bill convinced his bosses that BPA should make a documentary film about the changing role of power in the Northwest, and include Woody’s original music.

“By then the Northwest Power Act had been put into place, which was changing the role of BPA big time,” says Bill. “The Northwest Conservation Act was the reason BPA expanded their role in conservation and in protecting fish. I wanted to produce a movie to show this changing role.”

The movie was made but never released. Bill notes it was produced by Homer Groening, the father of Matt Groening, creator of “The Simpsons.”

With BPA preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Bill again brought up the idea of using Woody’s songs. He was tasked with finding the two missing songs in the collection.

A BPA newsletter article Bill wrote about his search for the lost songs was picked up in a front-page article by The Oregonian.

“My world exploded,” says Bill. “For the next few weeks, I was interviewed by national television and radio shows, local news shows, even a news magazine from Germany. It was crazy. I started receiving all kinds of phone calls, postcards and letters from people all over with Woody Guthrie stuff.”

Sifting through the material led Bill to several rare recordings and material from a variety of sources, including acetate disks saved from the Vanport Flood in 1948 that contained the world’s only known recording of Woody singing “Roll On, Columbia”—a song he never recorded commercially.

Bill eventually located the final two songs. “New Found Land” was on an obscure album, “Bonneville Dam and Other Columbia River Songs;” “Grand Coulee Powder Monkey” came from a songbook, “The Nearly Complete Collection of Woody Guthrie Folk Songs.”

To celebrate BPA’s 50th anniversary, in 1987 Bill produced an album of the 17 recordings available of Woody’s songs. He later published a songbook with all 26 Guthrie songs—the first time that was done. It included a forward by Alan Lomax, a folk music historian and friend of Woody’s who had recommended Woody for the job.

An Odd Combination Proves Fruitful
Woody’s gig on the federal payroll started when the BPA sent a representative to California to meet him in May 1941. BPA was interested in making a feature-length film about the dams being built on the Columbia River. Federal officials thought a folk singer could help people connect to the public power story on an emotional level.

Excited about the prospect—but with no actual job offer—an unemployed Woody and his wife, Mary, packed their three children into a battered Pontiac and left Southern California for Portland and the vague possibility of writing songs for the film.

When Woody arrived with his guitar and family, he immediately impressed the BPA bosses, who took pity on him and gave him a 30-day contract as a temporary employee, paid at the rate of $266.66 a month.

Woody was expected to write a song a day, which he nearly did. He produced 26 songs in 30 days.

“It’s very significant that one of America’s greatest folk balladeers wrote some of his best material in this very short and very productive month,” says folk musician Joe Seamons. “If you look at his body of work and when he wrote things, this was kind of the apex of his creative life.

“He had done a lot of songwriting up to that point, and all the skills he had been honing as a writer and as a storyteller came together to allow him to write this fantastic batch of music.”

Although the film was never released, three of Woody’s songs recorded in a New York studio eventually appeared in a 1948 Bonneville Power Administration documentary, “Columbia.”

Woody recorded about a dozen of his songs in the basement of the BPA office in Portland, and recorded and released several of the songs himself. He published several more in songbooks.

However, much of his original material disappeared for decades—lost until Bill doggedly pursued false leads and dead ends to find it.

Forever Connected to the Guthrie Legacy
Woody’s music continues to have relevance in Bill’s life. He has performed Guthrie songs across the Northwest with several musical partners, including Woody’s son Arlo.
Most importantly for Bill, all 26 of Woody’s songs have been recorded—fulfillment of a 30-year dream.

Bill and Joe teamed with Portland-based musician and producer Jon Neufeld, gathering a host of other Northwest-based musicians for the sessions.

While many of Woody’s songs have entered the popular consciousness, “too many of them remain obscure,” Joe says. “There are some very obscure lyrics and songs included here that we’re very excited to be playing. They are being performed in the recording studio for the first time. That makes it pretty special.”

In 2009, Joe was awarded a Woody Guthrie Fellowship, which allowed him to explore the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York City.

Since that time, Joe has been interpreting Woody’s work and other Northwest folk songs with musical partner Ben Hunter and his band, Timberbound.

“Joe has shown, without a shadow of a doubt, that he has the passion for, and the scholarship for, the roots music, the history of the music of the Pacific Northwest and the Woody Guthrie music,” says Bill.

All that remains now is gathering funds to get the album out to find a new audience.

“This is extremely satisfying,” Bill says about finally seeing all 26 songs recorded. “It’s given me great pleasure over the past 30 years to be a part of this project. This will make it all feel completed.

“And what is even better is that now I am able to pass the baton on to Joe. He has the youthful enthusiasm and it makes me feel really, really good that this is going to carry on beyond me.”

For more information about Joe Seamons and the Roll Columbia project, visit