Vaporfaith Media Solutions

NC Zoo

Several of my more recent posts are about our adventures in North Carolina. It seems we found a way to make everything interesting. One place I know weíll both miss, however, is the North Carolina Zoo. This is the largest natural habitat zoo in North America and the second-largest in the world. It splits the attractions into two distinct sections, North America and Africa. The North America side is slightly smaller and feels more traditional, while the Africa side is vast, with one of the largest open areas Iíve ever seen at a zoo. That gives it a unique feel. Both Ashley and I prefer this side.

Ashley absolutely loved the baboon exhibit. There were a few very small babies in the mix which captivated her and many other zoogoers. For a while, we were also fortunate enough to see a few baby gorillas. Ashley always gravitates toward the primates. They're her favorite. All of them were within a few shorts walks of each other in the Africa side and we spent most of our time bouncing among them during each visit.

We noted how active the animals seemed. Weíve made a point to visit zoos and wildlife preserves every place weíve visited and lived, as much a possible at least, and without question, the animals at the NC Zoo were the most active weíd ever seen. The cougars prowled back and forth and played together. The grizzly bear was very active, playing for hours through the afternoon with barrels, plastic balls and a variety of other toys many of us would struggle even to lift. The black bear was always on the move. Certainly the primates were busy climbing, running, rolling and playing and the otters were always good for a show. We never really got to see much of the polar bear, but I canít blame her for hanging inside, on account of the weather at its worst, not coming close to bordering her natural habitat. I believe they now have a second polar bear. Perhaps they spend more time outside now.

The first photo below shows a young girl, standing on the glass at one of areas designated for viewing the gorilla exhibit. She had her hand on the glass. I absolutely loved how she was viewing the gorillas with such curiosity and intrigue and the gorilla, on the glass at the bottom, was doing the exact same thing in reverse. The pair faced-off for a couple minutes and I felt it almost criminal not to capture that moment. Cartier-Bresson would have been proud. I had certainly found the decisive moment. I love animals, a lot! This photo is a great reminder to everyone that animals have personalities, can express emotion and add up to much more than the sum of their parts.

The second photo shows the grizzly bear, playing in the water in his environment. I think this was during one of his attempts to retrieve a leafy green vegetable from one of his toys. This is a tip-of-the-iceberg shot, because his head, while huge, accounts for only a small part of his massive body. It extends below the waterline forever. Heís probably touching the bottom.

The animals here are happy, playful and well cared for. To those who find themselves in the neighborhood of Asheboro, NC, visit this zoo!

NC Zoo NC Zoo

Idaho Moments

The first trip Ashley and I had made back to Idaho since our first Christmas in Austin came a couple years ago when we were living in North Carolina. We were headed back to the Gem State for my sisterís wedding.

In my life I have taken exactly five wedding jobs, no more, no less. Thatís a number I will likely take to my grave. They were all successful and I captured many wonderful photos, but I donít enjoy those shoots. I remember looking forward to attending a wedding without the responsibility of handling the photography. As it turned out, the photographer my sister and brother-in-law hired was the sister of a friend of mine. I wasnít even aware she was in the business, but I had reviewed her work, recommended her from the pool of photogs my sister sent me and ultimately liked what she produced.

That said, knowing I hadnít been back to my old stomping grounds in a while, I thought it would be fun to take one of my cameras. I brought my 35mm Canon Elon II and I want to say a cheap 50mm lens, pejoratively referred to as many things, including the fitty, the nifty fifty and the plastic fantastic. Most photogs have one of these lying around somewhere because of their relatively low cost and sufficient low-light capability. Mine was the f/1.8, but a very expensive f/1.4 is also available.

I took a photo here and there, when I saw something I liked and had my camera at the same time. I came home with about a roll and a half of photos. I scanned a few and sent one or two back to my sister then left the rest in my archive. When I was scanning the photos from our hikes, I thumbed through some of the contact sheets and found a couple photos from that trip which I hadnít scanned. So, I made some high-resolution scans, toned them and posted them here for you.

The first is of part of the main lobby of Red Lion Templins Hotel, the only three-star hotel in Post Falls, Idaho. I have fond memories of this hotel from childhood. For one, it sits right on the river near the largest, and one of only a few, boat launches on the river. Most of the other boat launches are dirt, very small and, in many cases, private. We drove past Templins all the time on the road and motored by it just as often on the river, moving to and from the launch.

The hotel itself is nothing amazing, but it works. The rooms are standard and the bar is underwhelming, but the dining room is fantastic. I say that because one entire wall is glass and offers a view of the boat slips below, adjacent to the short, sandy beaches near the hotel, across the often-busy river from a pine tree-covered hillside with million-dollar houses scattered among the trees. This view is amazing at all hours of the day and should it ever approach mediocrity, a walk down to the shore in the fresh Idaho air reignites the spark for weeks.

The second photo shows one of my sisterís dogs, Hero. He is the nicest dog one hopes never to piss off, not because of a history of violence, but because the thought of his potential should he feel the need to become a threat escapes few, and I submit a stupid few.

This was the first time Hero and I had met in person, though I had seen photos and we had Skyped a few times so he knew my voice. I love the way this photo shows him in a fierce light, with a sweet expression. Itís the perfect pair for a dog named Hero.

Idaho Idaho

Ansel Rasmussen

I dragged out my Bronica for a couple hikes. I had some expired film I wanted to burn and thought I could probably find something to shoot along the way. I scanned in a few of the better shots yesterday. Theyíre nothing amazing, but they do show the landscape well. Thatís one important quality of black and white photography -- it makes exploring the shapes and textures of a photograph easier. Sometimes color can be distracting.

That said, I promise to get some color back up here really soon, hopefully, some color shots of the this beautiful land. Colorado has some of the most vibrant colors on Earth and they appear at all times. Sunrises and sunsets are naturally brilliant, but Iíve seen similar shows of color at other times throughout the day and theyíre often accompanied by snow-capped peaks or jagged, tan-shaded slopes, adorned with blankets of pine trees. Do your best to visualize this, or Google it, and Iíll see if I canít wrangle a few photos of my own to post in the next month.

The first three photos are from Eagle Wind trail at Rabbit Mountain. It's a relatively short hike, but fairly dynamic with several different views, changes in terrain and a variety of wildlife. We've seen deer, come across bobcat tracks and during certain months, bald eagles fly near part of the trail.

The final three are from Button Rock Preserve. The reservoir here, in combination with the streams leading from it along the trail, make for excellent fishing, but require a specific license and are only open for a few spring and summer months. Early in the hike, which is an easy walk along a wide, dirt road, we passed a couple groups climbing the rock faces. Iím guessing the climbs were in excess of 100 feet, but the climbers appeared well in control. Once we reached the reservoir, we had to hike from the bottom, where the water was blasting out, filling the system of streams below, to the actual reservoir above. There, we found rocky shores, picturesque points, a trail that leads around water and pine trees that stretch up the mountains in every direction.

Colorado Hiking Colorado Hiking Colorado Hiking Colorado Hiking Colorado Hiking Colorado Hiking

Turning Art Into Art

Once in a while, I open Photoshop and play around. Usually I'm just killing time between activities, or while waiting for my hard drive to finish backing up, or allowing a large file to finish downloading. On rare occasions, I get sucked in. This happened not too long ago, when I had open an HDR image I had fashioned from a few shots I took of the Haw River in North Carolina right after we moved there. For some reason, I started creating and modifying some of the brush sets I had loaded to resemble different features in the photo. Before I knew it, I had a sketch layer, a canvas, and was well on my way to painting this photograph. After a couple hours I called it good. I never meant to make this and Iím sure itís not my best work, but I thought you might find it interesting so I decided to post it here. Enjoy!

Haw River

... It's Making a Cup of Tea

Recently, I heard something that reminded me of a video I watched in one of my design classes in college. The video is about procrastination. Itís wonderfully done and makes me laugh every time I watch it. The refrain is ďmaking a cup of tea.Ē Often, when somebody utters that phrase, "making a cup of tea," Iím taken back to this video and laugh a little inside. Iím also very self-conscious when I make a cup of tea, particularly when I do it prior to writing an article, scanning or editing photos or beginning a major design project.

I donít fall victim to every activity on the list, but I can relate to more than one and Iím willing to bet just about everybody can blame the delay of something important on at least one included item. I just wanted to share this video because I never forgot it and Ö hang on Ö be right back. I have to color-coordinate my shelves and get this pen to work.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Rangers > Bruins

Almost 10 years ago, some time after I had advanced to sports editor of one of the two student publications I ultimately managed. I atteneded a conference in New York City. It happened to take place over St. Patrick's Day. Let me tell you, experiencing St. Patrick's Day in New York City is special. I loved the parade and the city was alive, but I made by far my favorite memories that evening when I was fortunate enough to attend the Rangers-Bruins game in Madison Square Garden. Below is a column I wrote for the ensuing issue. I thought I'd post it as a reason good enough to celebrate any day, but especially on St. Patrick's Day. On this night, the Rangers clobbered the Bruins, 7-0, and on a day celebrated by Irish everywhere, this ice surface was plenty bloodied. Along with the scoring and penalty summaries from the game, I posted a screenshot of the actual page that ran in the March 26, 2007 issue. Also posted is a video of Ryan Hollweg's pre-game jig. Perhaps that gave the Rangers the bit o' luck they never needed to best the bears. As always, Go Rangers!

What's up

As part of a the trip, I was able to hit the Big Apple. In doing so, I attended both a New York Rangers game and a New York Knicks game. We'll call it a dream come true.

To experience a professional sports game in New York City means much more than simply witness sports on the East Coast.

The city

New York CityĖsports town extraordinaire and home to eight professional sports teams from five different sports.

This city is blessed with passionate fans. They can be either a player's best friend or worst enemy and keep even their best athletes accountable. Consider A-Rod an example.

The Big Apple is the archetype of a complete sports city. People navigate dangerous sidewalks, cross cab-filled streets and brave the disease-ridden subways to pay upward of $80, in the case of the Rangers, for even the worst seat to support their teams.

The Garden

On top of Pennsylvania Station, on the corner of 7th Avenue and 32nd Street is one of New York City's most famous buildings, Madison Square Garden. Opened in 1968, the Garden can seat more than 18,000 people for basketball games as well as hockey games.

Ticket in hand, I stood, centered in the mob of fans who arrived on time, waiting for the security guards to announce what all of us already knew, 6 p.m. had come. The barriers were removed and like a herd of buffalo, we rushed the turnstiles.

I was somewhat familiar with the layout of the building after attending a Knicks game the night before. I knew the general direction in which I needed to travel. Even though I already watched a game in the building, the reality of where I was hadn't yet set it.

It was not until I was seated, reading the Media Notes and thumbing through the program, sniffing that unmistakable stench of beer and my foot-long hot dog to the tune of a pre-game documentary of Ranger left wing Brendan Shanahan on the Garden's massive scoreboard screens that I started to realize what I was about to do.

One look up at the division, conference and league championship banners mixed with the retired jerseys of Mark Messier, Mike Richter and Patrick Ewing and the realization was finalized.

The fans

In addition to being a die-hard Rangers fan, I support the Spokane Chiefs. Hockey runs in my blood and it often bothers me to hear the fans in Spokane discuss the sport.

The difference between being a loud, ridiculous, hockey habituť in Washington and New York is noticed almost entirely during the breaks in the game.

The Ranger regulars, who put up $80 a game, know a considerable amount about the sport itself in addition to players, lines, stats, standings and injuries.

The Spokane Chiefs spectators, particularly those who secure the $8 tickets for the nosebleeds, are lucky to know the name of the flat, funny-looking, black cylinder after which the players chase.

Let's just say I didn't hear any people in New York discuss American Idol with their significant others through the inconvenient disruptions of a hockey game, nor did I suffer through any confident ignoramuses misexplaining hockey to their clueless companions of choice.

The game

At 7 p.m., the crux of my evening, trip and month began--St. Patrick's Day Saturday in the famed Madison Square Garden, NHL hockey represented by the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins and anticipation leaking from the crowd in the form of sporadic "yeahs" and "woohoos."

The National Anthem was sung. The starting lineups were announced. The Blue and White mob which ruled the seats surrounding the ice readied itself for war and then it happened.

The puck dropped.

New York ran all over the Bruins. Ranger left wing Sean Avery finished the game with a goal and three assists. He was a fight away from a Gordie Howe Hat Trick (a goal, assist and a fight in one game).

The 5-10, 185-pound forward led the NHL in penalty minutes last year, finishing with 257. It was his career high for points in a game. When a team's penalty guy has a four-point game, good things are sure to come.

Ranger center Matt Cullen and right wing Ryan Callahan had two goals each. Callahan, one goal from a hat trick and one assist from a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, was playing in his fourth NHL game and hadn't previously scored a goal. (NOTE FROM TODAY: Callahan went on to captain the Rangers for years and score many, many more goals.)

Starting goalie for New York Henrick Lundqvist made 30 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.

The Rangers are one of the few teams in the NHL to meet at center ice after each home game and raise their sticks to the fans as a thank-you.

Lundqvist came out after he was announced as the game's first star and launched his stick into the crowd.

With that, the 18,000-plus fans and my friend and I proceeded to file out of the Garden. I canít even imagine a better St. Patrick's Day. Go Rangers!

New York Rangers

All We Do Is Bend, Twist, Flip, Jump and Win

As an alumnus to both Boise State University and The University of Texas at Austin, I closely follow Bronco and Longhorn athletics. Ashley and I both follow Duke basketball and football as well and had a lot of fun at Cameron Indoor and Wallace Wade Stadium during our stay in North Carolina.

Once in a while, one person or team finds itself on a great run and if I am able, I like to create a special post. When Duke was prepping for one of its bowl games, I put up a short post. When Jordan Spieth really started to turn it on, I posted a few photos I took during a round preceding the presentation of one of Texas' two NCAA championship trophies for golf. I posted a photo or two after the Longhorns won their first championship in volleyball in more than 20 years and right now, I'm thrilled to honor Boise State's gymnastics team.

As of this moment, Boise State is the one and only undefeated team in the country. This, following a 196.575-194.575 win over Michigan State. The 10-0 Broncos have opened a lot of eyes and deservedly so. The Broncos have one meet left at home three days from now and can extend their record to 11-0 before the MRGC championships, NCAA regionals and NCAA nationals. To anyone in or around the Boise area, if you can, go support the Broncos and keep it going through the rest of the season!

Below are a few photos I took from one of the three gymnastics events I photographed during my time at Boise State. These are from a while ago so I'm sure these ladies are lawyers and mothers and finishing their second doctorates by now, but they helped establish the foundation on which the current, all-star cast is performing.

Boise State Boise State Boise State