Month: October 2016

WPC: Night lights

Some of the most spectacular “shining” comes from the moon. I have often tried to capture the full moon as it rises or sets. Night shots can be somewhat eerie, appropriate for Halloween!

Here are some of my efforts, for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine.

Moon over Beau Drive, Des Plaines (February)
Full moon appears above a red maple tree - Prairie Lakes parking lot.
Full moon above a red maple tree – park district parking lot (October)
Full moon casts a glow on snow-covered fir tree. (February)
Full moon through tree, as seen from our deck (early March)
Full moon filters through the canopy of leaves above our deck.
The light of the full moon filters through the canopy of leaves above our deck. (October)
Moon setting behind our neighbor’s house across the street (early March). I was amazed to see the moon going down one early morning, something I had not witnessed before.
Full moon rising (left of pillar) and artificial lights  at an outdoor concert (September)

Street lights create some spooky effects, too.

Street light casts a glow on new fallen snow in front of our house. (late November)
Snowy evening: street light illuminates a snow-laden tree
Snowy evening: street light illuminates a snow-laden tree. (late November)

Note: All photos were taken with a Samsung Galaxy 4 or 5, in Des Plaines, Illinois, except the concert which took place at College of duPage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois.


Alaska 2016: Skagway and Haines

When we woke up this morning, the ship didn’t appear to be moving. I went out on the verandah to see where we were. In front of me, instead of a dock with some sort of city visible around it, there was a sheer rock face! On the rock face were advertisements for cruise ships which looked as though they were actual notices that had been plastered onto the rock. Perhaps they were painted on, but in that case they were extraordinarily realistic. Below was a long train and a long line of people waiting to board. I guess that excursion had an early departure!

Shipping notices on the side of a cliff

This excursion was leaving early.


Skull among the notices

The excursion we had signed up for today wasn’t leaving until 1:30 so we had plenty of time to go into Skagway where we did some shopping and went to the library to get free Wi-Fi.  Like yesterday, I checked and responded to some email, updated our trip on Facebook and read other Facebook posts, and synced my FitBit.  Two days in a row of over 10,000 steps!

I was surprised to find a piano at the public library! One of the sign tells all about this piano, a Chickering Victorian Parlor Grand Piano, which is on loan to the Skagway Public Library. Another announces Piano Sundays at the Public Library, where people can come and listen or play from 3-5 pm.





Colorful downtown Skagway

Laden with shopping bags, we returned to the ship to drop them off and Dale went to have something to eat at Lido.  Since the excursion was supposed to include lunch, I didn’t go with him.  I wrote in my journal and forgot to charge my phone.

At around 1:45 we boarded a ferry from Skagway to Haines, a 45-minute ride, although the two towns are only 14 miles apart.  To drive between them would require entering and leaving Canada and would take four hours!  Needless to say, most people go between them by ferry.

Tucker was our guide on the ferry and talked about the geography and geology of the area, pointing out photo opps of waterfalls, and there were several.  All of them are created by glacier melt and the water is so cold that it takes awhile for it to mix into the sea salt water.  He promised to talk about history on the way back.

Morning fog drifts through the mountains near Skagway/Haines
Fog continues to drift over the mountains.
A glacier-fed stream high in the mountains produces waterfalls like this.

KODAK Digital Still Camera


When we got to Haines, a vivacious young woman named Meredith took over as our guide on the bus to Klukwan, a Tlingit traditional knowledge camp.  Meredith would love to live in Alaska year round, but once the summer tourist season is over, she’ll go back to Park City, Utah, where her husband runs a restaurant.  Besides tours like this, she also takes tourists on rafting trips on the Chilkat River, her favorite part of her job.

Welcome to Haines

Photo by Dale Berman

The Chilkat River ran along much of our route, a silty, gray, glacier-fed river that looked shallow. Meredith said that the river changes every day – today there is a sandbar island, tomorrow it’ll be gone.  This constant change is why she likes it – there’s always a challenge.  The salmon run up this river to return to their birthplace to spawn.  The route is many miles long.  Fishermen commonly net salmon at the beginning of this route, where the river meets the sea, just before the salmon begin their tireless journey.


People around here live simple lives, Meredith said.  They are too isolated to be able to depend on the availability of the Internet, for example.  Stores close at 8 pm and are closed on Sundays.  So if you don’t have your own vegetable garden and you want a fresh salad on Sunday or after a work shift that ends in the evening, you’re out of luck.

Haines is spread out over several miles, in spite of its small population, so as you’re driving through it, it doesn’t look like much.  Yet they have four hardware stores, several restaurants, a hotel, several B&Bs, and of course plenty of bars!  Meredith pointed out these establishments as we passed and told us her favorite restaurants.  Her enthusiasm for this place was quite admirable.  I could definitely see her settling down here permanently.  She is probably a better advocate for Haines than some of its full-time residents.

In Klukwan we met Elsie (her English name) of the Raven clan.

Elsie holds up a jar of pickled salmon.

There are two main clans here, the Raven and the Eagle and descent is matrilineal.  It is prohibited to marry into the same clan – an Eagle must marry a Raven and vice versa.  Under each of the main clans are about six subclans, including Wolf, Turtle, Bear and others – 3 for each of the two main clans.  The symbols for these clans are depicted on the side of their community center, with Raven and Eagle on top, and the 6 subclans under their respective main clan.


New buildings are being constructed here, expanding their community outreach.  We saw the smoke house and the drying shed, where salmon are smoked and then dried into a sort of jerky, and a lumber workshop, where we met Elsie’s brother Jack.  He showed us how he uses an adze to prepare wood for carving.  He has several adzes of different sizes, all hand tools – nothing mechanized!

KODAK Digital Still Camera
The smoke house

Elsie's brother Jack works in this wood shop.

Jack shows how he uses his adzes to carve the wood.

Here's the beginning of a salmon carving.
Someone has begun a carving of a salmon.

In this work shed, there is a large canoe which would be powered by 15 paddlers.  He told us how it was made and painted and what the designs on the side meant.  The most interesting part of the process of constructing the canoe (as well as boxes made all of one piece of wood) was the procedure called “steaming.”  The woods used include birch and cedar, soft woods that are malleable so they can be manipulated when heated.  To steam the wood, hot water is put into the canoe and hot rocks added to keep it hot, until it boils, thus softening the wood allowing it to be pulled apart.  When cooled, the wood hardens in its new shape.  The canoe was carved from a large log and the steaming allowed the sides to be pulled further apart to allow slats to be inserted where the rowers would be seated. This made the canoe more comfortable to sit in but also made it more stable.


Elaborate artwork on the front of the canoe

Totems, house posts, weavings and paintings tell stories to people about the people who live there and have made the objects.  Since the Tlingit didn’t have a written langue until recently – and it was the Russians who first assigned an alphabet for their language, although they now use our alphabet, not the Cyrillic alphabet – these images were their way of communicating non-verbally and leaving a legacy.

Furthermore, they have a rich oral tradition through stories, songs and dances.  The group of Tlingit, including Elsie and Jack, performed dances and songs for us.  We were allowed to take pictures but not videos, because these are considered tangible property, subject to a sort of copyright.  The stories, also, can be quite elaborate and must be told very precisely, using the correct wording to avoid changing or reinterpreting the original story.


Jack put on his dance regalia and was joined by three women, including his sister (Elsie), his granddaughter and another member of his clan, in the dances performed in the long house.  In the back of the house is a screen covered with painted symbols which would be their version of a mural.  The dancers emerged from behind this screen.  We, the audience, sat on benches on three sides of the space in the front (near the door).


We were allowed to take pictures*, but not videos, because their songs and dances belong to the tribe, like a copyright.  However, we were allowed to take a video of the last song:

House posts told the stories of their family.


KODAK Digital Still Camera

From there we were taken to an exhibit hall – a small museum – in which no photography was allowed.  On one wall was a map of the area, with all the Klukwan Tlingits’ historical villages marked and named. Their subsistence lifestyle in the modern world was displayed with photographs and informational placards.  There was a large totem pole.  Elsie took us into another room where there were two poles, or posts, and told us elaborate stories that these posts depicted.

We were allowed to take pictures in the gift shop, however, which had several beautiful carvings.

Tlingit masks

I'm not sure how these would be used - snowshoes perhaps?

In the shop are many handmade carvings.

Meredith believes the Klukwan Tlingit have been successful here because their lifestyle is not so different from the subsistence lifestyle of Haines in general, and they have been readily accepted.

After we ate, we got back on the bus and went to visit the Bald Eagle Sanctuary.  There are bald eagles, of course, but also owls and a red-tailed hawk that had belonged to a falconer who retired and the hawk, having been raised with humans, could not be sent into the wild.  Two female bald eagles, Bella and Vera (I’m not sure if Vera is the eagle’s name) can’t fly due to damage to their right wings.  One was hit by a truck and the other electrocuted by an electric power line.  They have a large enclosure and a series of perches, like steps, that they can ascend to reach their favorite lookout spot where they can observe the world outside.  The workers there called it “bird TV!”



The bald eagle "sisters" at their favorite lookout!
The bald eagle “sisters” at their favorite lookout!

We got back to Skagway and our ship around 8 pm and once again we went to the dining room for open seating.  After dinner we were tired and retired to our stateroom, as there was no show that night that interested us.

Each night, our steward would leave a folded towel animal, complete with “googly eyes!” This is what we found on our bed after dinner:



*Photos of the dances, with the exception of the video, were taken by Dale Berman. The photos of the hawk and owl were taken by Dale Berman. All others taken by yours truly!

Thursday Doors: My home town

I live in Des Plaines, Illinois and I take walks almost every day around the neighborhood.  I have picked a few of my local doorway pictures that I like best as my contribution to this week’s Thursday Doors.

These are pictures of just ordinary houses…20160617_105937

…in my home town of Des Plaines, Illinois


that were taken this year between…


June 17 and …


and October 5.20160816_162922

They’re nothing fancy…


but each is special to someone…


who calls it “home.”

Juneau, Alaska (Part 2): Salmon spawning, glacier & a lake

Mitch continued entertaining us with funny stories when we again boarded the bus to go to Mendenhall Glacier. He also told us some information about the land and weather in Juneau.

Juneau can get tides as high as 16-18 feet.  In 20 years, the land Juneau sits on will be higher than the water, eliminating the channel and Douglas Island will no longer be an island.  This is because it was glaciers that pushed the land down and the land is now rising as glaciers recede.  20,000 people (of Juneau’s total population of 33,000) live in what is known as “the Valley.” (This is the Juneau that most tourists don’t go to.)  The Valley gets less rain, sometimes only ½ as much.

Sitka spruce covered with a fungus

When we were about to arrive at the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, Mitch told us we would have one hour.  He made suggestions as to what to do there – the Visitors Center had some interesting exhibits and a 15-minute film and there were two trails: one short one where you could see salmon swimming upstream to spawn, and maybe a bear (if you were lucky) who had come to catch some of them, and a longer trail that went to Nugget Falls, near the glacier. That trail would take a minimum of 45 minutes round trip, and in Mitch’s opinion, it was better to take the shorter trail – also interesting – so that you’d have time to see other things as well.


I’m glad we opted to take the shorter trail, in spite of always looking for opportunities to take long walks, because it was interesting to watch the salmon, now beginning to turn white and emaciated because they’ve stopped eating and put all their energy to get to their spawning spot.

Exhausted and emaciated salmon slowly make their way upstream.

Not sure if these are alive or dead.

We saw some dead ones too, all white.


Salmon count for six weeks of summer
Sockeye salmon count for 6 weeks of summer

I took a video of the salmon swimming upstream. Most of them seemed lethargic, if determined: they would swim forward, then drift backward a bit, thus making slow progress.  There was one salmon, though, who still had some spunk, splashing and jumping to fight the current.  We saw no bears.

Steep Creek

Then we climbed the stairs to the Visitors Center, where we looked at the exhibits and saw short videos while waiting for the 15-min. film.  Eventually I calculated that we wouldn’t have time to see it: it was 5:48 and the film was due to start in 11 minutes.  We should have gone in at that point, but instead I waited and walked in just as he film was romeo-book-coverending.  Although I took several pictures, I did not take a picture of the taxidermied black wolf, although I saw it.  I later wished I had, because a couple of days later, I read the part in the book A Wolf Called Romeo where the author mentions the black wolf in the Visitor Center and what relation she might have had to Romeo (perhaps a sister or a mate…his mother? Probably not.).

This plaque along the trail to Nugget Falls commemorates the memory of the wolf known as Romeo.*

Mendenhall Lake was created by Mendenhall Glacier only a few hundred years ago! The glacier has been receding for more than 200 years.  A glacier’s ice mass is unstable, always changing its shape by melting and calving, always moving its position by advancing and receding.

Mendenhall Glacier and Lake

Glacial ice

Why does the glacier look blue? Compacted ice crystals over time form a solid mass of ice.  When light strikes these crystals, it is bent (refracted) inside the solid ice and only the blue spectrum is transmitted back to our eyes.

Close up of Mendenhall Glacier

With about 15 minutes to spare, we walked down a paved path below the Visitors Center toward the glacier and Nugget Falls.  I could see small figures silhouetted against the rushing white falls – people who had opted to take the long trail.  I realized we didn’t need it – we could see the falls just fine from here and this way we got to see most everything else.


Mendenhall Glacier and Auke Lake

Sand bar on Auke Lake

A ribbon of glacier-fed water trickles down the mountain.

*The photos of the plaque and of the book cover were downloaded from Google Images, from the web site . This web site summarizes the story of this beloved black wolf of Juneau and includes some wonderful pictures of Romeo and his dog friends.