Weekend at Timothy’s

Stepping out of my tent, taking a sip of fresh mountain air, I greeted the birds and thought, what will we be doing today?

Diving

In the midst of August, slightly before the country went gaga over a total solar eclipse, I joined my dive club for our annual trip to Timothy Lake. We’re mostly a saltwater bunch, communing with the Sea Bass and the Octopus in the mighty Pacific, but our traditions include an opportunity to rinse off the dive gear in a freshwater venue.  And if we happen to come upon a few crawdads while we do our scuba laundry, and they somehow land in the dinner pot, who could blame us?

Crawdad
Crawdad Photo by David Gerke

Of course, they don’t walk up and say “eat me”, catching crawdads by hand underwater in a silt storm with 90 pounds of gear strapped to you isn’t the simplest thing.

Sailing

Don’t let the label “dive club” fool you.  Sure, we dive together, but as we’ve been doing so for a good many years we’re also good friends.  The hanging out and doing stuff between dives has become as important as the diving – maybe even more so.  Camping as a group is one of our favored get-togethers, it’s evolved from something to keep costs down on dive trips into social outings with auxiliary activities.

In the afternoon, after comparing my paw span with the claw span of various crawdads one of those auxiliaries arose in the guise of a Hobie Cat Tandem Island sailboat.

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Somebody else Cat’n around

Back in the 90’s I had my own little sailboat and developed a taste for teasing out momentum across the waves from little gusts of wind – and sometimes bigger ones.  In time, I found I wasn’t getting out enough and let the boat go, but the hankering to sail remains.  Lucky for me, one of my dive buddies owns the aforementioned Hobie Cat.

This model is not a true sailboat. It’s really a kayak with a pedal-driven propulsion system and outriggers. The sail provides a secondary drive force, but works much like a regular sailboat (although it doesn’t sail into the wind quite as well.)

Consider the scene. We’re sailing/pedaling around the lake, and a sheriff’s patrol boat is tailing us. First one side, then the other, then standing well off.  It seemed odd, but maybe he was just curious.  It’s not a boat you see every day and there wasn’t much traffic on the lake.

Then he pulled us over.

Here’s the thing. Powered boats of a certain length require registration.  Kayaks aren’t really considered “powered”, because they’re propelled by people – not sails, not engines. This boat is a hybrid,  but most folks consider it a kayak.  (Note the lack of registration numbers on the bow of the pictured example.) The deputy had other ideas.

Ever get a ticket for sailing a kayak?

Milky Way

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Cities are full of light. For many this is a draw, something that makes them feel safe.  But there’s a tradeoff.

Modern city folk, those who never leave the city limits may look into a clear night’s sky and think they see stars. Perhaps they see a few and think the sky majestic, but they’re much like a myopic who doesn’t know he needs glasses.  What they need is a visit to the deep countryside, and the lens of a sky not polluted by so much light.

Timothy Lake is in Central Oregon, about 50 miles SE of Portland and about 20 miles south of Mount Hood.  This is still close enough for the light to affect horizons, but for this night I was interested in the southern skies – home of the Milky Way.  There, following the spine of the Cascade mountains, was dark sky running the length of the state, with stars and galaxies uncountable.

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We were lucky that night: clear skies, no moon, the heart of the Milky Way rising at a reasonable hour; darkness enough for even the foggy wisps of our own galaxy to show up for the naked eye.  And for the sensors of a modern camera, even more stars pop out.

To the east, the entire lake was visible from a dock. Navigating onto such a structure on that black a night was a tentative stroll that a blind man could appreciate, with the specter of a soggy dunking for mistakes.

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Looking Northeast, with the faint glow from a town 45 miles away.

The amazing thing is, for all the stars I saw there were billions more I didn’t; and some that seemed like stars were galaxies in their own right, each with their own stars in the billions.

The Hikes

If you’re going off to commune with nature, their’s no point in spending all your time sitting around a campfire or lazing in a tent when there are paths to be walked. _72D3023-1200

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A trail from the campground took us through the forest, and along parts of the lake.

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Mount Hood from Timothy Lake

On a second day, we extended our range and hiked up a forest service road to a fire lookout tower, where we took in views of Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and the surrounding valleys.

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Mount Jefferson, with a light blanket of smoke from wildfires.
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Mount Hood from the fire tower.

Coda

And among all the activities there were the usual pleasantries: chit-chat amongst old friends, potluck meals and crawdad feeds that belied the notion of “roughing it”,  regular campfires (carefully monitored of course), and the occasional stroll by one’s self for a personal experience of nature and the calming effect it can have.

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48 thoughts on “Weekend at Timothy’s

  1. Wonderful photos, and I enjoyed this collection of vignettes. You really got a ticket for pedaling a boat??!
    And then I sat here saying “comparing my paw span with the claw span of various crawdads” out loud, three times fast. 🙂

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    1. Well, the ticket was really for not having registration for a “sailboat”. Or maybe the deputy just had a quota. It’s interesting how those crawdads stretch out their arms to make themselves look bigger, but the real trick is grabbing them – they’re quick!

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  2. What a blissful outing, with all the ingredients for pure pleasure out in nature. I love water and hiking, as you probably know, but today I was most drawn to those Milky Way photos! WOW! I’ve always loved how the Milky Way has a chunkiness about it, a thick clot of stars running up through the sky, and you caught that.

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    1. I would like to have used one of the Milky Way shots for the featured image, but the banner doesn’t do vertical formats too well. I was pleased how they turned out, and was able to use a couple editing tricks to make them look even better. About the only thing more I could have asked for that night was a more interesting foreground.

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  3. This is the kind of outing I’ve been craving, not so far from home and in the comfort of good friends/family. Sounds like there’s so much to do at that lake. And the Milky Way photos are sublime. I’ve been reading up on how to do astrophotography for an upcoming trip. It will be my first attempt at manual settings. So intimidating. Thanks for the virtual trip to your beautiful part of the world.

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    1. It was a great trip. I’d suggest you practice the manual settings on your camera on a tripod before your trip, first in the light then in the dark to get comfortable with them. You can preset most of it, then make small corrections on site as needed. Use a red headlamp or light to see what you’re doing without trashing your night vision. You’ve probably already found recommended exposure and lens size. I find the biggest challenge is getting the focus right before it gets too dark to focus. Good luck and clear skies.

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    1. Ha! I’d kind of forgotten that Mt. Hood is still considered an active volcano. I suppose if my luck isn’t good enough to win the lottery (especially as I don’t buy tickets), it’s probably not bad enough to be next door when the volcano goes kablooie. About the same as farming in the shadow of a tornado, I suppose. 😉

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  4. Wow! The shots of the Milky Way had to be my favourite (I was torn between those and the mountain). I know how hard it is to get those shots! I’m totally amazed you got so many different angles with an object in the foreground and the dark sky in the background. Fantastic!

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    1. Well, that was the height of summer (we had 3 straight months without rain this year.) This time of year gray is the predominant sky color, and it’s likely to be that way until June. So we try to enjoy summer for all it’s worth.

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  5. There’s so much to appreciate here, I don’t know where to start. I have to mention your nice turn of phrase, “a taste for teasing out momentum across the waves from little gusts of wind” – terrific! What a crazy story about getting pulled over. Gorgeous shots of Mt. Hood, well all of the photos are great. I can’t help feeling envious of the community of friends you’ve described. And one more thing – were the night sky photos done with a tripod, special settings, etc? They’re very good, and I like that they aren’t exaggerated, the way many night sky photos are.

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    1. Thanks, Lynn. Writing is an art I’m still trying to master – it doesn’t come naturally so when I can eek out a phrase that earns a “terrific” it makes my day. I’m grateful for having my dive club friends, my circle would be scant indeed were it not for them. As for the Milky Way shots, the recipe for me is: tripod, 30 seconds, 12 mm wide angle (APS-C sensor, so effectively 18 mm in full frame), f4 (wish I had a faster lens), ISO 6400. I do use some digital editing tricks for contrast and color correction. Maybe we should swap secrets, your photos have a deft editing touch that I can only figure out some of.

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      1. What you say about writing is exactly where I’m at, so i get that. Thanks for the info about the night shots. We’re going to Nevada in January – maybe there will be an opportunity. I hate using a tripod though. 😉 I too use a smaller camera – the Olympus OM D1, which has plenty of features, is easier to carry around, and has excellent image stabilization – a huge plus for me. I like the way you edited the night photos – like I said, they’re “quieter” than many, and thus more real to my eye. I make a lot of use of Color Efex, and sometimes Silver Efex, and of course Lightroom. I never use Photoshop, just never got comfortable with it. There are things in Color Efex that I’ve found make a big difference quickly. I often go there first, then tweak further in LR. If you think of a specific question or a specific photo you want to know about, I’m always happy to try to remember what i did and tell you. Do you have Color & Silver Efex?

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      2. I do have the NIK tools as a plug in, but don’t often use it. My primary tool isn’t Lightroom, it’s On1 Photo RAW. On1 is a local company in Portland. I think most folks know them from their Effects tools and have used them as a plug in for LR, much like NIK. They’ve been expanding their overall photo editing functionality. Still not in Photoshop land but could give LR a run I think. It has lots of presets (too many, needs winnowing) for the Effects, but frankly I tend to only use presets if I’m stuck and need ideas. Do you have favorite presets in Efex?

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      3. I have On 1 too, but I have found Color Efex easier to use. When I use presets I generally fiddle with them, rarely use them as is. Darken/lighten center has proven helpful, you can place the center and adjust the degree of light/dark in the middle and edges, and it’s surprising how it can change photos for the better. It’s usually more subtle than vignetting. Tonal contrast is another one to play with, with many permutations. I will sometimes use Glamor glow underneath sharpening – odd, because the glow is like sliding back on clarity and you wouldn’t think sharpening after that would be a good idea, but it can be a nice effect.
        Detail extraction has a lot permutations, I run through them for most photos and then sharpen once more in LR before exporting. Classical soft focus is just right for certain images.
        I’ve used the Film efex: Modern a number of times too, sometimes slightly dialing back later on the saturation. I’ll use the Lens vignette sometimes, then I might adjust vignetting again in LR.
        I don’t use Levels & curves in Color efex, I prefer doing that in LR.
        Some others, like Reflector efex, Infrared, Grad neutral density, Sunlight, Vignette blur, etc. I use once in a while. It’s endless, isn’t it? There are many presets I haven’t ever used, and many things I’m sure I could do in LR that i don’t know about. And like you said there can be too many!

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  6. Your Milky Way photos are beautiful. Getting to see the natural lights of the universe is getting more difficult, but I’m looking forward to experiencing it in Oregon’s lovely outdoors at some point in the future.

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  7. You take wonderful photos Dave. I’m jealous of those star light shots in particular. However, I recall the equipment and effort that goes into taking those stunning starlight shots and remind myself that maybe my life is plenty complete by enjoying vicariously through your blog…

    have you summited Mt Hood?

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    1. Thanks, Gabe. Star photography is a new thing for me, even though I’ve dabbled in photography for 40 plus years. Modern sensors are pretty amazing, but the ones in smartphones are just too small for good low light photos.

      Despite the large collection of hobbies I’ve tried over the years, mountain climbing isn’t one of them. About the closest I’ve come is summer trails in the mountains (day hikes) or riding ski lifts.

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  8. Beautiful pictures. It’s always refreshing to see a sky like that. Oddly enough we didn’t see many at the cottage we rented in Port Renfew on Vancouver Island. There was a lot of light behind the mountain across the bay and it was fishing season so the boats were hauling in their catch at night. It was a bit noisy and full of light. It was cool watching them too since we don’t really get to see that.

    The lake looks like a fantastic getaway.

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    1. It’s hard to get away from light pollution. A few weeks after that trip we were on the Oregon coast, near a small town and 10 miles from a slightly larger small town, so I thought I’d get some Milky Way shots there too. I did get some, but they weren’t very impressive.

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  9. We caught crawdads as kids, Dave, There was a small creek near us with shallow water where they liked to hang out. What I remember was that 1) there isn’t much food on a crawdad and 2) the little buggers are fast. I can’t imagine catching them in diving gear! Fun photos. I can’t believe I haven’t been following you, a situation I’ve corrected today. –Curt

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    1. It does take a few crawdads to make a meal, and they are quick. There’s a link in this post back to an earlier crawdad dive story that describes the challenges (like refraction for example.) Thanks for following. I haven’t been doing this a long as you have, but there are a few good stories to be found and hopefully, some nice photos to go with them.

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      1. I specifically remember how quickly they can swim backwards! Ours were always hiding under rocks. We were lucky though in that we were walking around in shallow water, maybe a foot deep. Looking forward to your posts. –Curt

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