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A Good Man

Today we buried my father. Ernest John Becker was an amazing, yet humble man. He was a leader in the Spokane community, serving on many civic, Gonzaga University, and church boards. He was the managing partner at the biggest accounting firm in the city. Yet, at least with his kids, he didn’t talk about these things. To us kids, he was just Dad.

Dad grew up in Colton, Washington, a small farming community near Pullman. Actually, he grew up on a farm several miles outside Colton. He was one of 14 children. The farm was at the base of Bald Butte, a rounded chunk of bedrock sticking several hundred feet above the rolling hills of the Palouse. Several years ago, I talked with Dad about his life, and he said that Bald Butte was his favorite place. It held great memories for him of growing up on the farm, and he still liked to visit the Palouse and Bald Butte when he got the chance.

He eventually left the farm, joining the Army and serving in the Korean War. He didn’t talk much about those days, at least to me or my siblings. After three years in the Army, he returned to Washington and attended Gonzaga University, earning a degree in accounting. About that time, he married my mother, and together they started their own large family. I am one of seven children; the oldest boy, third oldest overall.

Over the past week, all of us shared photos of Dad. I have all the old slides that Mom and Dad shot from the late 1950s through the 1980s. I went through several hundred, and scanned quite a few to share with my brothers and sisters. One brother made photo collages for the reception after the service; I made a slide show of Dad’s life. There were several shots of Dad proudly holding his first baby son back in 1959 and 60, and I couldn’t help but think today, that now I was carrying him as one of the pall bearers.

I suppose I got my love of photography from him. While growing up, whenever we took a trip, Dad had his camera out, taking photos of the family and the scenery. I don’t know when he got his first camera, I never had the chance to ask, but I did scan one photo of Dad as a young man, perhaps 20 years old, camera in hand. My mother also took a lot of photos, so perhaps I came to photography from both sides.

Dad also bestowed his love of nature on me (and my siblings). Every year he’d load up the station wagon and hitch up the tent trailer, and off the nine of us would go to explore the American west. I remember trips to Glacier National Park, the Oregon coast, Arches National Park, Yellowstone, the west coast of Vancouver Island, and southern California.

He loved to travel. A few years after my mother died, Dad met and fell in love with my stepmom, Anita. There  eight years ago, when Dad was 81 years old. Together they discovered the wonders of Europe and Hawaii during multiple trips. In between the trips, they enjoyed life in Spokane. It was wonderful to see him so happy in his later years.

I’m like him in so many ways – the photography, love of nature and travel, quiet by nature – and I must have been told 20 times today at the funeral that I look just like him. Which is good, I guess, since I think he was a handsome man. Perhaps you agree? The photo above is one I took about two years ago, at Bald Butte in fact. It was probably the last time he was there. The one below is his high-school portrait – then the year he left the farm and Bald Butte behind to make his way in the world.

He died about two weeks ago, and I still have a hard time believing he is gone. He was the very definition of a good man – humble, loyal, steadfast, smart, and generous. And while, perhaps, a little bit of him lives on in me, in my memories and my genes; I will miss him. Rest in peace Dad.

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Quick Shot – Supermoon

If you read my last post, you know I was not optimistic about shooting the supermoon. As it turned out, though not 100%, I felt well enough to go out. And the weather actually did cooperate, sort of anyway. As you can see, I did get a shot of the supermoon over Seattle. While I am pleased with this image, it is not exactly the one I wanted. From my vantage point in Manchester, on the west side of Puget Sound from Seattle, the moon rose right next to the Space Needle. That is the shot I had hoped for. But there were clouds on the horizon and the moon was not visible until about half an hour after moon rise. In fact, I captured this shot 31 minutes after the moon rose. And, I do have to admit, the clouds did present some nice color to the shot.

Anyway, I thought you might like to see what I came up with. After shooting the moon this evening, I’m now thinking of trying for a lunar eclipse shot in the morning. Is it moon madness?


5 Years Ago – Seattle Moon

I haven’t had my camera out all month, and I’m going crazy. Last week had hoped to go out, but the flu interfered with my plans. I haven’t left the house since last Monday. I’m starting to feel better, and with just a few days left in January, perhaps I will be able to venture out yet. There is a supermoon and total lunar eclipse coming up on Wednesday after all (however, the weather report does not hold much promise). The pending supermoon made me think of some shots I took of the moon (though not a supermoon) five years ago. The weather forecast that day in January 2013 was also not so promising, but the day ended up being glorious, and I captured many good images that day including the one here.

If you do try to photograph the supermoon, remember that perhaps the best time to photograph the moon rise is the day before the full moon (in this case, Tuesday, not Wednesday). The day before the full moon, the moon will look just about as big, but it will rise before the sun sets, allowing an image like this one. On Tuesday, here in Tacoma, the moon will rise at 4:28 p.m. and be 99.6% full, while the sun will set at 5:09 p.m. So, provided the clouds part, if you go to West Seattle, you can capture an image like this (but with a bigger moon). If you wait until Wednesday, the moon will rise at 5:43 p.m. and still be 99.6% full (the actual 100% full moon occurs Wednesday morning), but the sun will set at 5:10 p.m.

Your other option is to photograph the moon setting. In that case, it is usually better to photograph the moon the day after the full moon, Thursday in this case when the moon will set 48 minutes after the sun rises and still be over 98% full. As far as the total lunar eclipse goes, the eclipse will be total from 4:51 a.m. to 6:07 a.m. on Wednesday. All the times given here are for Tacoma, and the actual moon rise, set, and eclipse times will likely be different for you. Timeanddate.com provides an excellent online resource for determining the eclipse timing.

With any luck – like the flu giving up its hold on my body and the ceaseless rain and cloud cover actually ceasing – this Tuesday or Thursday, I might have a chance to capture a supermoon. I’m not holding my breath, but I do wish you good luck in you lunar adventures this week.

 


With the Animals

Earlier this week I did a portrait shoot for my friend Karen Robbins. Karen is the author of several children’s books and has two new books coming out soon, one on farm animals and one on zoo animals. She wanted head shots for both herself and her illustrator, Rachel, with farm and zoo animals. So she made arrangements for me to shoot at Old McDebbies Farm in Spanaway, Washington. Old McDebbies is closed for the season, but they welcomed us and helped with the photo shoot. I shot with shot Karen with a sheep, a camel, and a horse, and I shot Rachel with a goat and a wallaby. After shooting, we got a tour of the other animals on the farm – including emus, kangaroos, giant tortoises, and miniature deer.

It was a bit of a challenge getting the animals to cooperate with the portrait session and the outside shots were done in the rain, but I like the results.


Merry Christmas from Tacoma

Merry Christmas from Tacoma! One of my presents came early when I found this scene yesterday during some beautiful sunny winter skies. Today, it is overcast again with snow forecast for tonight – so Tanya and I are hoping for a white Christmas in the morning. But if not, we can always get a view of snow by just looking at The Mountain (at least when it isn’t covered by clouds). Thank go out to my photographer buddy, Ernie Misner, for telling me about the location for this shot. Have a tremendous holiday season everyone!