Historic and Iconic Bellingham City Hall Captured on Camera

A company called Light is introducing a new compact camera that uses new technology. They enlisted some photographers to mention it in their blogs and to write about one of their favorite locations to shoot or a unique spot in their city.  I was one of those contacted  for Light’s #VantagePoint project.

The towers of Bellingham's old City Hall rise above a modern day mural depicting the days when the historic structure was built. My photograph was made in 2012 using a Nikkon D700.
The towers of Bellingham’s old City Hall rise above a modern-day mural depicting the days when the historic structure was built. My photograph was made in 2012 using a Nikon D700.

A request like this isn’t easy for me because I have so many favorite spots and so many favorite images that I’ve created over the years.  But I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk to you about one of my favorite local subjects (besides the people I photograph). And that is Bellingham’s old City Hall building, now part of the Whatcom County Museum of Art.

It’s an iconic building in town and safe to say probably the most photographed in Bellingham.  Completed in 1892, it served as the town’s official city hall until 1939 when new offices were built and the museum moved in.

I've photographed the iconic old Bellingham City Hall from a variety of angles and spots. This image made in 2008 with my Nikon F5.
I’ve photographed the iconic old Bellingham City Hall from a variety of angles and spots. This image made in 2008 with my Nikon F5.

 

The noble red-brick and Chuckanut sandstone structure was designed by local architect Alfred Lee in the Second Empire style of Victorian architecture.  According to the City’s website, is “currently one of this style’s most exquisite example in the Pacific Northwest. This building epitomizes the general characteristics of this French inspired style, which are tall, bold and purposely three-dimensional. Some of the design elements are also an eclectic mixture of the Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival style.”  It includes a high mansard roof, classical columns on either side of the main entrance, and a prominent, central bell tower, all of which draw the photographer’s eye.

Walking out of the museum one evening, the silhouette of the old City Hall's towers with the new moon just appearing behind it caught my eye and my camera. This was taken with my Nikon Coolpix S3500 point and shoot.
Walking out of the museum one evening, the silhouette of the old City Hall’s towers with the new moon just appearing behind it caught my eye and my camera. This was taken with my Nikon Coolpix S3500 point and shoot.
This senior's vintage clothing set the tone for his senior photo session at the old City Hall building in Bellingham. It was photographed using my Mamiya RB 67 film camera in 2007.
This senior’s vintage clothing set the tone for his senior photo session at the old City Hall building in Bellingham. It was photographed using my Mamiya RB 67 film camera in 2007.

I have photographed the building, or elements of it, from a variety of spots, angles, times of day and year. It has been the setting for many of my senior portrait sessions and the choice of seniors who want their portrait to reflect something uniquely Bellingham.  And I’ve used a variety of cameras over the years from my Mamiya RB67 and Nikon F5 film cameras, to my digital Nikon D700s to (yes,) my cell phone cameras. It all depends upon what I may happen to have with me or what I’m using at the moment.  The images included in this post were taken on all of these various cameras.

The building now houses part of the museum’s collection and its spacious Rotunda Room is frequently the site for concerts, including the Bellingham Festival of Music‘s popular free lunch-time chamber concerts.  I even photographed one of those this past summer.

Two young concertgoers sit patiently waiting for the Bellingham Festival of Music lunch time program to begin.
Two young concertgoers sit patiently waiting for the Bellingham Festival of Music lunch time program to begin. Taken with my Nikon D700 f3.5 1/50 sec ISO 3200 28-200 @28 mm

When you visit Bellingham, which I hope you’ll do one day, be sure to stop by the old City Hall. It’s likely to be as memorable for you as it has been for many photographers and visitors before you.

I’ve not seen or tried out the new Light camera but according to the company’s website, the camera, Light L16, is sold out until 2017. You can check it out yourself.

 

Beautiful Music in My Own Backyard

Summers in the Puget Sound area, where I live, don’t officially start, weather-wise, until July 13, according to local meteorologists.  But in Bellingham, summers begin when the musicians from around the country arrive for the Bellingham Festival of Music.  That happened last week.

The Bellingham Festival of Music begins its summer season with a picnic for the musicians at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.
The Bellingham Festival of Music begins its summer season with a picnic for the musicians at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

The Festival, now in its 23rd season from July 1-17, is one of the things that I look forward to every summer. In fact, the Festival is one of the amenities that attracted us and ultimately convinced us to move to Bellingham. It must be a draw for the musicians too as every summer, 44 musicians from major orchestras across the U.S. and Canada (plus additional players as needed) assemble here to play two weeks worth of some of the most beautiful music in the world.  We like to think that they are also playing in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

It all begins with a welcoming picnic for the musicians, conductor Micheal Palmer, the chorus members, sponsors and the families who host the musicians in their homes during their stay.  This year’s picnic took place at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal which offers a terrific view of the Bay and Bellingham. It’s an ideal spot for returning and new musicians to meet this year’s Festival board members, local sponsors and the home hosts.

Janet Lightner,co-owner of Boundary Bay Brewery, served brews with her sister, Vicki, at the Festival of Music picnic.
Janet Lightner, co-owner of Boundary Bay Brewery, served brews with her sister, Vicki, at the Festival of Music picnic.

The potluck picnic, provided by the Festival Board member and volunteers, is tasty and plentiful.  Following appetizers and drinks, with local prize-winning microbrewery Boundary Bay serving up some of its finest beers, the picnickers head off to the buffet table and dinner. Afterwards, this year’s Board Chair, Karen Berry, officially opened the season by introducing maestro Michael Palmer who, in turn, introduced this year’s team of musicians.

Thumbs Up
Festival musicians Marci Gurnow and Christian Colberg give the buffet table a thumbs up at the opening picnic for the Bellingham Festival of Music.

Section by section, starting with the first violins of course, the musicians took their turn at the podium to share with the evening’s guests their answers to the question: “What was your most embarrassing moment as a musician?” There were some great ones: insects falling onto instruments and being flung into the audience, missed cues, parts of bassoons falling out during performances, women’s undergarments landing on violin scrolls during a Tom Jones’ show, auditions that turned out well despite mishaps and being encouraged to pursue other professions.  It all made for some entertaining anecdotes.

Many of the Festival’s musicians have been coming to Bellingham for years.  They have become a ‘family’ in the sense that they know one another’s spouses and children, have forged long-lasting friendships with their home hosts and share in the joys and sadness of one another’s lives. Last summer, one of the musicians stayed beyond the Festival dates in order to have her wedding in Bellingham. This year, a group from the orchestra is throwing a baby shower for an expectant father who’s playing here while his wife, nearing her due date, remained at home.

Bellingham Fesitval of Music Chair Karen Berry welcomes the musicians and guests at the opening picnic.
Bellingham Festival of Music Chair Karen Berry welcomes the musicians and guests at the opening picnic.
Maestro MIchael Palmer takes the podium to introduce the Festival musicians.
Maestro MIchael Palmer takes the podium to introduce the Festival musicians.

This long-term bonding has, over the years, made the orchestra tighter when they play together onstage. At least that’s my belief having now gone to concerts for the past 20 years. Although together for only a short time, with rehearsals only days ahead of each concert, they meld into a solid sound.  I have often found myself astounded to be sitting in my own backyard–nearly literally as the concert hall at Western Washington University where they play is within walking distance–and listening to world-class performances.

Principal bassist from the Seattle Symphony Jordan Anderson shares his ‘most embarrassing moment’ at the Bellingham Festival of Music picnic.

For Festival goers, the concerts are a bargain with ticket prices topping at $45 for premiere seating in a small, intimate performance hall of just 650 seats. I recall the many years that I lived in Los Angeles and

was a subscriber to the L.A.Philharmonic. Travel time from our home was 45 minutes at least, depending upon traffic, bargain tickets were usually no less than $45 and in the top tiers of the 3,000 seat hall, plus parking costs and don’t forget money for the babysitter. Granted, I no longer need to pay a babysitter, but all the other costs of hearing live classical music and experiencing outstanding performances in as beautiful a natural setting as you’ll ever find make the Bellingham Festival of Music an incredible deal. Especially for us locals.

Donna Lively Clark from the Festival orchestra's viola section tells the picnic guests how much she enjoys the shopping when she comes to play.
Donna Lively Clark from the Festival orchestra’s viola section tells the picnic guests how much she enjoys the shopping when she comes to play.

If you don’t live in the immediate area, you can spend the week vacationing and enjoying the classical music concerts at night and any one number of activities during the day–strolling the art galleries and shops, tipping a few brews on the ‘Tap Trail,” hiking or biking on one of our many trails, playing golf on one of 22 courses here, fishing, kayaking or sailing on the Bay. I can’t think of a place I’d rather be.

 

A City Stops the Coal Train in its Tracks

June 10th marks a day of both great tragedy and great celebration in my small city of Bellingham, WA.  That’s because 17 years ago on that date, a pipeline carrying gasoline from a refinery north of the city and that runs through our Whatcom Falls Park, in the middle of the city, exploded.

The fireball that erupted when the Olympic Pipeline ruptured sent flames down the park’s stream burning everything in its path, including three boys, an 18-year-old who had just graduated from high school and who had gone to the park to fish and two 10-year-olds who were playing downstream in the water. 

Whatcom Falls Park is a popular place for locals and visitors alike in Bellingham where the pipeline exploded 16 years ago.
Whatcom Falls Park is a popular place for locals and visitors alike in Bellingham where the pipeline exploded 16 years ago.

I was just about to leave with my own 10-year-old at the time, for his baseball game in a school ball field located not far away from the park. As I was standing by my car, I suddenly saw a giant plume of thick, black smoke curl up in the sky and over the general area where we were headed.  Although I had no idea what was the cause, I recognized it as some kind of oil-related fire because I had seen one exactly like it when the pipeline ruptured and exploded near my home in Los Angeles as the Northridge earthquake in 1996, just three years previous.

Family members of two of the boys killed by the Olympic Pipeline explosion in Bellingham gather with Lummi Naton members for the unveiling of the 'healing' totem, carved and dedicated by the Lummi Nation in 2007.
Family members of two of the boys killed by the Olympic Pipeline explosion in Bellingham gather with Lummi Nation members for the unveiling of the ‘healing’ totem, carved and dedicated by the Lummi Nation in 2007.

I, like hundreds of other residents, instantly turned on our radio in hopes of learning what was happening. And I told my son that we were in no way going to the baseball field. The news was spotty and unconfirmed but one local caller to the station knew exactly what it was: a pipeline explosion in the park.

We learned later that was precisely what had occurred.  A faulty valve at a pumping station located 30 miles south failed to open. Workers, thinking it was yet again the faulty valve, overrode the controls to close the valve, causing the pressure in the pipeline to build and burst in the park.

My son, Matthew, says the day of the Bellingham pipeline explosion is a day he will never forget. Here he speaks at a 2012 public hearing on the coal train shipping terminal in Bellingham.
My son, Matthew, says the day of the Bellingham pipeline explosion is a day he will never forget. Here he speaks at a 2012 public hearing on the coal train shipping terminal in Bellingham.

My oldest son, Matthew, then 14, says he “remembers looking up to see the plume like it was yesterday. I’ll take that image to the grave.” As will many who were living here at the time. It was a day that awakened the residents of Bellingham to the potential dangers and disaster, both for the environment and in human life, that unmaintained and unrestricted pipelines carrying gasoline, trains transporting noxious coal and tanker trains loaded with flammable oil can have on a community. We learned that lesson long before the accidents that occurred in West Virginia, Quebec and most recently in nearby Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge just this month.

An estimated 2,000 people lined up in the rain to attend and speak at one of the first public hearings on the proposed coal train terminal.
Nearly 1,200 people lined up in the rain to attend and speak at one of the first public hearings on the proposed coal train terminal.

I have no doubt that it’s one reason why companies wanting to place a shipping terminal just 20 miles north of here in order to send coal to China encountered such strong opposition from local and state residents. Building the terminal would have meant that as many as 25 trains a day would have rolled from Wyoming, across the farms and ranches of Montana, Idaho and Eastern Washington, up the coast of Western Washington, through Bellingham along its waterfront and past neighborhoods with houses standing less than 100 feet from the rails. It would have meant that the fishing grounds, where the Lummi Nation people have harvested salmon for hundreds of years, would have been jeopardized and likely threatened all the sea life dwelling in that deep water area of the Salish Sea.

The salmon became a symbol for signs calling for the protection of the Salish Sea during rallies against proposed coal train terminal.
The salmon became a symbol for signs calling for the protection of the Salish Sea during rallies against proposed coal train terminal.

Five years ago, environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben spoke at rally at the Village Green to kick off the campaign against the coal trains. At that time, he told the crowd of approximately 1,000 that “Bellingham, by sheer accident of geography, is the front line in the global battle against the use of coal.”

Environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben makes a presentation at Western Washington University in 2014 during of several visits to Bellingham. McKibben was one of the first to acknowledge Bellingham's crucial role in the coal campaign.
Environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben makes a presentation at Western Washington University in 2014 during of several visits to Bellingham. McKibben was one of the first to acknowledge Bellingham’s crucial role in the coal campaign.

This past Friday, June 10, an estimated 1,000 people gathered again on the Village Green. But this time, they were there to celebrate the recent decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to uphold the Lummi Nation’s treaty rights and deny the permits required to build the coal terminal as well as the announcement by the state’s Department of Natural Resources that it had denied the land lease also required.

An estimated 1,000 people gathered on Saturday, June 10 to celebrate their victory over the coal shipping terminal.
An estimated 1,000 people gathered on Saturday, June 10 to celebrate their victory over the coal shipping terminal.

Some warn that the project is still alive until the local permit application at the county level is denied but those at the Village Green on Saturday were jubilant with these latest turn of events and what they hope will put an end to the coal terminal.

And those of us, who, like my son and myself, remember the June 10 of 17 years prior, also paid our respects for the event and lives lost that sparked the debate here and derailed the coal train terminal.

 

 

 

Climate Marchers: Listen with Your Heart

I had planned to write something else for my blog post today, but decided after participating in today’s Climate March that I needed to write about this instead.  I, and about 750 other Bellinghamsters, gathered in chilly 30 degree weather this morning in Maritime Heritage Park to show our support, along with marchers in 2,000 other cities throughout the country, for the United Nations’ Conference on Climate Change which begins tomorrow, November 30.

Climate Marchers gathered in Bellingham's Maritime Heritage Park and paused for a moment of silence for victims of terror in Paris before setting out.
Climate Marchers gathered in Bellingham’s Maritime Heritage Park and paused for a moment of silence for victims of terror in Paris before setting out.

After a moment of silence for all the victims of recent terrorist actions in Paris and elsewhere, the group was rallied with signs bearing environmental slogans and set out on a short march through downtown Bellingham. The mood was not exactly festive but determined as people made their way en masse to a downtown building that currently serves as the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary space.

Participants in the Climate March carried signs with environmental slogans as they walked through downtown.
Participants in the Climate March carried signs with environmental slogans as they walked through downtown.

People poured into the building to the lively beat of drummers positioned at the front doors. Shortly afterwards, Lummi Nation elder Darrell Hillaire introduced the guest speakers who took to the stage and spoke about the importance of taking care of our environment as one day we will all meet our creator and have to account for our actions.  They instructed us to ‘listen with our hearts, instead of our ears,’ when it comes to climate matters because if we do, it will stay with us.

First Nations guest speakers urged the climate marchers to 'listen with their hearts' when it comes to climate justice issues.
First Nations guest speakers urged the climate marchers to ‘listen with their hearts’ when it comes to climate justice issues.

The Lummi Nation will send an Indigenous Delegation to Paris later this week to participate in the conference and to present the video, “The Earth is Alive” which has been made especially for the big event. The Lummi Nation has taken center stage in the environmental arena locally as they work together with other environmental groups such as ReSources, Climate Solutions,  350 Seattle and the Sierra Club to block the construction of a shipping terminal that would threaten and likely destroy their fishing waters.

The sign posted at Sunday's Climate March said it all.
The sign posted at Sunday’s Climate March said it all.

Treaties made back with President Ulysses S. Grant gave the Lummi Nation protection of its natural resources, salmon being among them. They argue that building the proposed shipping terminal, intended to ship coal from here to China, would jeopardize and break that that treaty.

Just two weeks ago, a Lummi Nation delegation appeared at the White House Tribal First Nations Conference to express their concerns about these violations and to rally other First Nations to support their efforts.

No decision has yet been made regarding the terminal but it has bonded, and in some cases, divided the entire county and the state.  At stake is the environmental well-being of the entire corridor that runs the length of the Salish Sea as increased train traffic, up to 25 trains per day, would run to and from the terminal carrying loads of coal destined for export.

Wendy, a member of the Squamish Nation from British Columbia, was among those present at the Bellingjham Climate March and premiere of "The Earth is Alive,' to be shown in Paris during the Climate Conference.
Wendy,in silhouette here, is a member of the Squamish Nation from British Columbia and was among those present at the Bellingham Climate March and premiere of “The Earth is Alive,’ to be shown in Paris during the Climate Conference.

Today’s march, while part of the larger worldwide effort to show solidarity for climate justice, was much more personal to those in Bellingham.

More of my photos from Bellingham’s Climate March can be seen on my Portfolio page.

Courtroom Drama

When author Harper Lee‘s newly published novel,  “Go Set a Watchman” was released two weeks ago,  it was heralded with special screenings of the film based on her now classic book, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird”, midnight book parties and readings, and all sorts of other events all intended to celebrate or promote (depending upon your point of view) this book.  The book, despite or perhaps because, of the controversy surrounding it, quickly climbed to number one on the New York Times best seller list where I suspect it will remain for a while.  Lee’s other book, after all, is now regarded an American literary classic and is studied by schoolchildren and beloved by readers.

It is one of my personal favorites too. A few years ago, I found an anniversary copy of the book which I purchased as a gift for my husband and then, as luck would have it, actor Gregory Peck signed it when he came to the Mount Baker Theatre with his ‘one-man’ speaking tour in 2000. He still cut a striking and statuesque figure even then at age 83 and was as gracious as he appeared to be in many of his on-screen roles. I must admit that I was appropriately starstruck with the 6-foot 3-inch tall actor who played Atticus Finch as he stood right there before me after his onstage performance writing an inscription and his name into the book .

I was reminded of all this recently when Lee’s other book made the headlines. My backstage encounter with Peck also came to mind a couple of years ago when I was commissioned to photograph a group of local political activists promoting women candidates for the cover of our weekly alternative newspaper, the Cascadia Weekly.

Local political activists gathered in the Federal Buildilng courtroom for this cover photo.
Local political activists gathered in the Federal Building courtroom for this cover photo.

We staged it, with permission, in the courtroom of the three-story Federal Building in downtown Bellingham. The building, designed in the Italian Renaissance style, is prominently located on a downtown corner where, every Friday since the 1960s, there has been a ‘peace demonstration.’ (I’ll have to write another blog about that one day.) Few locals ever go inside the noble structure except to purchase stamps or to mail a package from the post office branch located in the southeast ground floor corner. But they should as it’s a real design treat.

Stepping into the courtroom in Bellingham's Federal Building is like stepping into the trial setting for 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'
Stepping into the courtroom in Bellingham’s Federal Building is like stepping into the trial setting for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

The courtroom where the photo for the cover was done at a time when the courtroom wasn’t currently in use. It was once a Federal District Courtroom. (More recently, it’s been proposed that the courtroom come back into use as one of the city’s courtrooms.) I was so taken by the beauty of this judicial room that I stayed after my photo session for the Weekly to photograph it for myself. Although not an exact duplicate of the courtroom seen in the classic black and white film, it clearly is of a similar style and period so that just walking through huge wooden door so you transported through imagination to that setting. I could see Atticus Finch sitting at the defendant’s large, heavy oak table appealing to the judge positioned in the behind the big bench at the front of the room.

The audience is separated from the court floor by a mahogany railing that spans the width of the courtroom.
The audience is separated from the court floor by a mahogany railing that spans the width of the courtroom.

An elegant Honduran mahogany rail separates the court floor from the mahogany benches for the audience.  Tall, two-story arched windows line one side and allow natural light to fill the entire room. Running beneath the windows is the jury box, where, if I closed my eyes, I could see the jurors of that classic case intently following the arguments being presented before them.

There is no balcony in the Bellingham courtroom, as there is in the movie, but your eyes are led overhead to a coffered, vaulted ceiling that is 20 feet tall at its highest point. “Each octagonal ceiling coffer has an egg and dart moulding that surrounds a delicate stucco rosette planted in the coffer’s center,”  according to the building’s nomination for the National Register of Historic Places. It is an impressive judicial setting, one that certainly harkens to another era when such detail was the norm for important institutional structures.

Your eyes gaze upwards to the decorative coffered ceiling.
Your eyes gaze upwards to the decorative coffered ceiling.

Indeed, many small towns in this country have courtrooms of this sort built, as was this one, in the earlier part of the 20th century where the trial as seen in “To Kill a Mockingbird” could have taken place.  They remind us of a time when attorneys, like the fictional Atticus Finch, were eloquent, righteous and respected. Perhaps that’s one reason why some are so disappointed by the Atticus Finch of Lee’s new book, and why it has given rise to the controversy of whether the author ever intended it to be published. Regardless, if you live in the area, or are visiting, and have never seen the courtroom inside the Bellingham’s Federal Building, go upstairs sometime and have a peek. And let me know if it doesn’t make you think of Harper Lee’s literary classic.

 

 

 

Making Music in Beautiful Bellingham

Bellingham’s Festival of Music’s 22nd season got off to a bang on Friday evening when the orchestra, under the baton of Michael Palmer, performed the rousing Overture to Royal Fireworks Music by George Frederic Handel. Though evening was unseasonably warm inside Western Washington University’s Concert Hall the audience wasn’t deterred and applauded for an encore from soloist Vadim Gluzman who gave a stunningly beautiful performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The orchestra too sparkled when it played Mozart’s wonderful  (never can have too much Mozart) Symphony No. 36 in C major, the  “Linz”.

Violinist Vadim Gluzman greets fans and sign autographs following hisperformance at the 2015 opening night concert Bellingham Festival of Music
Violinist Vadim Gluzman greets fans and sign autographs following his performance at the 2015 opening night concert Bellingham Festival of Music

I often have to remind myself that I am in Bellingham, a city of only 80,000 located 20 miles from the Canadian border, and not in Seattle or San Francisco or even Chicago or New York when I hear this Festival orchestra perform.  Of course, the musicians who play in this orchestra for two weeks in the summer, come from orchestras located in those cities. As many of them have said, it’s equally a treat for them as well to perform here year after year (some have been with the Festival since the first year). They have made many friends with their ‘host’ families and those who come to hear them play. They enjoy the opportunity to play in a our beautiful city by the bay and welcome the chance to escape from the heat of their home environs. (This summer has been unseasonably warm for Bellingham.)

Audience members await the start of the chamber music concert staged in Bellingham's Ferry Terminal each year with stunning views of the bay and the city.
Audience members await the start of the chamber music concert staged in Bellingham’s Ferry Terminal each year with stunning views of the bay and the city.

It’s one reason the New York Times singled out Bellingham’s Music Festival, along with that of select others in the country, for its article by Michael Cooper which appeared in today’s paper. It is, as Cooper so aptly put it, like ‘summer camp’ for classical musicians.

For concertgoers, the festival brings to the stage some of the world’s best classical music and musicians,  without setting foot beyond the city’s boundaries. In my case, I am only steps away from the WWU campus where they perform.

Mary Kary and Joe Robinson play for guests during a farewell gathering given at a private home to honor their retirement from the Belingham Music Festival.
Mary Kary and Joe Robinson play for guests during a farewell gathering given at a private home to honor their retirement from the Bellingham Music Festival.

I have had the pleasure of listening to and getting to know, for example, former New York Philharmonic principal oboist Joe Robinson, both as a member of the orchestra and as a soloist. (Pinch me.) Robinson retired from the Festival two summers ago but his spot was filled by protegé, Keisuke Wakao, principal oboist for the Boston Symphony.  And I’ve heard some of the finest soloists, such as the Israeli violinist Gluzman, performing in classical music today.

It also brings back to Bellingham local artists such as soprano Katie Van Kooten who’s singing with opera companies and symphony orchestras all over the world, and young rising talent, such as the Calidore String Quartet, whose violist, Jeremy Berry, grew up only blocks from the concert hall where he saw musicians on the very stage where he now performs as part of the Festival’s guest artists.

The Calidore String Quartet visits the Pacific Northwest to perform in the Bellingham Festival of Music.
The Calidore String Quartet visits the Pacific Northwest to perform in the Bellingham Festival of Music at Western Washington University. The quartet is making a name for itself internationally and includes violoist Jeremy Berry who grew up listening to concerts on the Festival stage.

At this writing, tickets are still available for some concerts. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area, or coming to this corner of the Pacific Northwest in the next two weeks, make it part of your summer. If you can’t make it to Bellingham’s music festival this year, put it in your travel plans for next year. And then you, like so many of the festival musicians, may also find yourself returning year after year!

 

 

 

Art Walk in Bellingham

I’ve often told people who ask that the city where I live, Bellingham, WA., is like a small European community. One reason is because the city has a rich arts lifestyle especially for its size. Bellingham is ranked the second best arts community in the country, with the ranking being based on the number of active arts businesses per capita,” according to Downtown Bellingham, a non-profit organization of local businesses and civic-minded residents that works to promote the city’s lively and historic downtown.

During the 1980s, local galleries opened their doors four times a year for what was known as the Gallery Walk.  In 2009, it became a monthly event that takes place on the First Friday evenings , even in winter.  It has become a highly popular outing for locals as well as visitors who wander from shop to shop, gallery to gallery taking in a wide variety of art created by the many talented artists who live here.

Art Walk offers people a chance to view a variety of fine art by local artists.
Art Walk offers people a chance to view a variety of fine art by local artists.  (Photo courtesy of Leo Friedman)

Downtown businesses, in addition to the galleries, showcase the work of local artists with openings from 6 to 10 p.m. during Art Walk. I am often among those who enjoy the evening viewing the artwork. But at the May Art Walk to be this Friday, May 1, I’ll be showing some of my own portrait work in a group show at Dakota Art in its relatively new gallery space.

The show will focus on the art of portraiture and different styles of portraiture.  Three other artists, besides myself, will also be featured. Everett Aison will show five framed triptych portraits of “New York Subway Faces” and a series of “63 people looking at Art” water-color drawings and digital prints. The portrait art of the young artist Katie Johnson, originally from Hillsboro, Ore, whose works are very stylized large-scale oil paintings of the faces of various Bellingham brewers. Also included is Tessa Asato who creates large-scale drawings that are heavily detail oriented and have strong concepts.

My portraits will be among those featured in a group show at Dakota Art in Bellingham's May Art Walk.
My portraits will be among those featured in a group show at Dakota Art in Bellingham’s May Art Walk.

Five or six (space dependent) of my photographic portrait prints will be displayed. They represent a good variety of both my photographic media and my own portrait style. Some are portraits which I was hired to create for clients, others are ones that I initiated myself. Some clients own copies of the prints but most are from my personal collection and are the only existing print. Many have not been seen outside my studio doors. I am pleased to present them at Art Walk.

There’s a story behind each print, but I won’t be able to tell them that evening. I’ll share shortened versions here and with the images so that those of you who don’t live here can see them as well. As someone commented to me last week, you won’t get the full impact of the image without seeing it firsthand, just as with any piece of art. You can’t see here the finish used, the artwork done or the type of paper on which it was printed. I won’t get into a discussion about how I work other than to say that when photographing someone, whether for a personal portrait, a business or a high school senior, I do my best to reveal something about that subject, their personality or inner self. That comes with getting to know them quickly, making them comfortable enough to not be self-conscious in front of the camera and then capturing the moment on film or digital realisation.

This image was created during a high school senior portrait session at my Bellingham photography studio.
This image was created during a high school senior portrait session at my Bellingham photography studio.

“Fairy in the Forest,” was created during this young woman’s high school senior portrait session. Her mother asked me to photograph her daughter in her ballet clothes. After shooting some in the studio, I asked her to come outside with me to forest. She took off her ballet slippers and followed me out. I didn’t really have anything specific in mind at the time, I just like the idea of putting someone out of context. I placed her on the path amongst the towering trees and asked her to move into various ballet positions. Later, in looking at the raw proofs, this particular image reminded me of Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” one of my favorites. I had the print pressed into a fine weave canvas after scanning the original negative and doing some digital artwork.

With six gold medals hanging around his neck, Knight is an inspiration to us all.
With six gold medals hanging around his neck, Knight is an inspiration to us all.

I asked Richard Knight, the father of my Pilates instructor, if I could photograph him for my “The Noble Knight” after hearing about his remarkable accomplishment of winning six gold medals in swimming at the Senior Olympics. (You can read about that in my blog post: A Knight in Shining Armor.) Richard, then 79, wasn’t too certain about my idea, but once we met at the session, we became instant buddies, in part, because we’re both swimmers although I can only dream about winning six gold medals. I had hoped to persuade him to shed his jacket so that his medals would gleam against his bare chest but when he wasn’t willing to do that, I just went with it.  He was a good sport when I told him I wanted him to stand out on the rock surrounded by chilly water. But the look on his face and his stance caught at this instant, created for me a priceless image of a man at his the peak of accomplishment.

Photographed as part of a high school senior photo session, this print will be among those on view during Art Walk.
Photographed as part of a high school senior photo session, this print will be among those on view during Art Walk.

“Nikki, The Girl in White” was also done for a client’s high school senior. She was great fun to work with as I photographed her at a local boatyard. The rest of the images from this session are full of bright color from the boats, equipment and buildings. But towards the end, she slipped on a white t-shirt and I moved her away from the color to a spot nearer the water with only the sky behind her. The contrast between her shirt, the sky, her hair and skin tones was stunning. She was smiling in most of the images but then her expression changed and I had a moment that I thought said more about her than all the others.  I gave the print a high gloss finish to make it pop even more and give a high-fashion flavor.

The finished image was inspired by the work of Andrew Wyeth although when I created the portraitfor this senior portrait, I wasn't consciously thinking of the artist.
The finished image was inspired by the work of Andrew Wyeth although when I created the portrait for this senior portrait, I wasn’t consciously thinking of the artist.

“Rachel in the Field” is a much softer image. The young woman pictured here is the beautiful daughter of my cousin. Rachel is a horsewoman so we had gone to the stables to photograph her with her horse. When we were wrapping up, I placed her for some final images in the adjacent pasture with the treeline silhouetted in the background. She sat on the ground for the first few then I asked her stand and instead of looking at me, gaze off towards the horizon. When she did, I captured it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in editing her images later, I realized those last images bore direct references to artist Andrew Wyeth‘s indelible “Christina’s World.” I then applied digital artwork to create a feel I thought similar to that conveyed in Wyeth’s watercolor, although I didn’t want to duplicate his work,and that expressed the mood of my image.

“Madonna and Son”, the only print of which I don’t have a digital version to show here, also has considerable artwork, most of it done by hand on the print itself, in order to achieve the end result I had envisioned. This image feels very Italian to me, which is why I guess I gave it that title.It was done for a friend of mine in Los Angeles shortly after the birth of her second son. I arrived at her home for the session. Rarely, if ever, do I give my subjects props or clothing to wear but in this case, I loaned a silky white nylon robe to her. I can’t say that I had this image in mind when I shot it on film, but when I saw it in the camera’s viewfinder, I knew I had something special. She and her son were photographed in her hallway with the white light from the living room windows streaming in behind her. To this I added a feather screen on the print and then finished it with a lot of pencil work to give it the ‘etched’ look I was after. It is one of my own, as well as that of my many clients’ favorite portraits. I often have it hanging on the wall of my studio.

The portrait of this young man was made for a concert poster.
The portrait of this young man was made for a concert poster.

Lastly, but not least, is “The Pianist.” This portrait was created at the request of the Mount Baker Youth Symphony for a concert poster. This young man had won the orchestra’s concerto competition and was to be the soloist for the concert. When he arrived at my studio for the session, I took him into my home and had him sit at the piano. I asked him to play some of the music he would perform. When he did, it was as if he had left my room for his own personal world. Me too. When he stopped, I simply asked him to turn and look out the window but to leave one hand touching the piano’s keyboard. He clearly was still thinking about the music as he did so because you can see him so lost in reflective thought. The film image was made on watercolor paper as a delicate giclée print after I scanned the image and added my digital artwork to it.

I wish that all of you could come to the gallery next Friday and see these prints for yourselves. If you can’t, I hope that this offers some insight into my own portrait work and how I, as a photographic portrait artist, approach my work in creating my these images. You can always see more of my own portrait work on my studio website.

Read more about Bellingham’s Downtown Art Walk on Whatcom Talk.

 

 

 

 

 

Honoring Good Women

The Bellingham YWCA is a remarkable organization.  It does incredible work within our community’s and is one of my favorite organizations to support whenever and however I am able.

The Y’s Womencare program, for instance, provides emergency, confidential shelter, 24 hour crisis support services and community education for women who are victims of domestic violence. It’s transitional housing program is available for single adult women in Whatcom County to give them a safe, supportive place to stay while connecting them with the appropriate resources to get their lives back on track and become self-supporting. The Back to Work Boutique provides low income women in Whatcom County with new clothes sot that they feel confident and look good while applying for a job. And, an especially popular program at this time of year is the Prom Dress Program, that allows young women of all incomes access to a formal dress for a special occasion.  The YW currently has more than 200 formal dresses in stock.

The Bellingham YWCA Northwest Women's Hall of Fame is Sunday, March 23.
The Bellingham YWCA Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame is Sunday, March 23.

The organization also sponsors the Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame.  Since its founding in 1999, the YWCA has honored 56 contemporary Whatcom County women, living and deceased, and 12 Legacy Award winners, from the early days of the county, whose service has inspired later generations.  This year’s awards event will be this upcoming Sunday, March 23 at Northwest Hall in  Bellingham.

I was honored to have been asked to photograph for the event three of this year’s four awards recipients–Julianna Guy, Ann Marie Read and Deborra Garrett whom I had photographed for her campaign in 2012 in her bid for Superior Court Judge. Ramona Elizabeth Phare Morris will also be a recipient. To be selected, honorees must have made a lasting impact, served as role models for women and girls, demonstrated perseverance and vision, and overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.  

Ms. Guy will be one of this year's Northwest Women Hall of Fame recipients selected by Bellingham's YWCA.
Ms. Guy will be one of this year’s Northwest Women Hall of Fame recipients selected by Bellingham’s YWCA.

Julianna Guy is a delightful woman whose eyes sparkle with life when she speaks.  I had a lovely time getting to know her during our studio session.  A former accountant for network and local television, she moved back to Bellingham to retire and is now persistent spokesperson for a park and branch library in the underserved Cordata neighborhood, She is now helping to create a park in the King Mountain area. Juliana formed the Cordata Neighborhood Association, resulting in a park being built & greenway being designated. She is a former  SCORE counselor, helping entrepreneurs – especially women – start new businesses.  Juliana is also involved with Planned Parenthood, and Big Brothers & Sisters.

The Bellingham YWCA is honoring Ms. Read for her service and dedication to parenting and childhood education.
The Bellingham YWCA is honoring Ms. Read for her service and dedication to parenting and childhood education.

Ann Marie Read and my path’s crossed many years ago when our sons were studying piano from the same teacher. I was delighted to catch up with her and to learn what she and her family are now doing.  During the past twenty-five years, she has been a parenting educator at Bellingham Technical College (BTC). She has provided critical early childhood education for parents in a variety of venues, including weekly parent/child classes, free drop-in groups for low-income parents such as “Baby Connections”. In addition, she has worked with special populations, including parents participating in the “Early Head Start” program, parents from the Nooksack Tribe, and student parents in BTC’s professional technical programs.  How she has done all this and been a mother of three sons too, I’m not exactly sure.

Deborra Garrett, who has been an attorney in Whatcom County for 30 years, is now a Superior Court Judge.
Deborra Garrett, who has been an attorney in Whatcom County for 30 years, is now a Superior Court Judge.

Judge Deborra Garrett is someone I also came to know through our sons who attended the same middle and high schools. (She was the subject of my blog post in August, 2012–Primarily Primaries which you can read by clicking on the link here.)  Her career in Whatcom County spans more than 30 years.  She has represented individuals, organizations & businesses.  Often her representation provided her clients the only remaining opportunity to resolve their legal issues. In 2013, Judge Garrett became the first woman elected to a Whatcom County bench as  Superior Court Judge and I was proud to contribute to her campaign by photographing her and some of her campaign events.

The fourth recipient is Ramona Elizabeth Phare Morris. She is a strong proud Native women who has advocated for Lummi People as well as all Native Americans, advocating in important areas such as jurisdictional and fishing rights, BIA Land Trust, roads on tribal land, Tribal Taxes (fish taxes) Treaty Tax Force (Nationally), Health Care and Youth Education, tax issues & concerns for tribal people. Ramona  has represented the Lummi People proudly and has worked alongside many other tribal leaders .

There’s still time to make a reservation for Sunday’s Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame dinner and ceremony to recognize the contributions and achievements of these extraordinary women who have all made Bellingham a better place to live.  I hope you’ll join me in supporting this, and other YWCA programs.  For more information just click on the link( in green lettering) or phone the YWCA at 360-734-4820.

 

Local Drive-Ins Delights Locals

Sonic Drive-In announced today that it is opening several locations in Seattle. The Oklahoma-based hamburger drive-in chain already has one in Ferndale, Wa., near my Bellingham home that opened a couple of years ago. I’m familiar with the chain from my visits to the Midwest where they seem to be present in nearly every small town along the my routes to and from the Kansas City and Tulsa airports.

I usually make a stop there to buy one of its thick and creamy milkshakes and an order of onion rings when I’m in the Midwest or visiting my hometown and when there’s no local alternative. But I still prefer our locally owned drive-ins. There are several in Seattle–Dick’s (not the best hamburgers), Burgermaster (yum) and By’s in SoDo (which has gotten rave reviews) among others. In Portland, my friends favor the family owned Burgerville which started in Vancouver, WA. and now has 39 locations in Oregon and Washington. They serve great onion rings made with Washington’s own Walla Walla onions.  I indulged in those on a recent trip back from Oregon.

Boomers was one of Zach's favorite places in Bellingham so we both agreed it would be fun to stage his senior photo right there!
Boomers was one of Zach’s favorite places in Bellingham so we both agreed it would be fun to stage his senior photo right there!

Bellingham, where I live, also has a locally owned drive-in– Boomer’s.  Boomer’s has become something of a local landmark since opening in 1989.  http://www.boomersdrivein.com/  Although not as old as some Northwest drive-ins (Bellingham also once had Bunk’s but it’s been defunct for years), its white outdoor canopies, supported by fire engine red slanting metal poles, with black and white checkerboard borders and red-lettered in red menu items are classic. I have staged some senior portrait sessions there and love do so. I have even driven my 1954 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon over to be a part of the set.

I parked my '54 Plymouth behind Zach, shown here on his scooter, to give Boomer's even more vintage flavor during his senior portrait session.
I parked my ’54 Plymouth behind Zach, shown here on his scooter, to give Boomer’s even more vintage flavor during his senior portrait session.

You can pull up and park at the outdoor stalls, check the menu order board then turn on your lights and a car hop will come out to take your order.  No screaming back and forth through scratchy intercom boxes. Or, you can go inside, place your order at the little service counter and sit around the circular fireplace or at one of the tables and eat.

Boomer’s serves legendary burgers–my personal favorite is the Swiss/mushroom burger–and waffle fries. They also have a long list of milkshakes made by hand using real premium ice-cream from Whatcom County’s own local Edaleen Dairy.  I go for the chocolate-banana shake but the chocolate raspberry, when in season, is pretty tasty as well.  Kids meals are packaged in cool little box trays that look like vintage 1950s cars. It’s worth ordering a kid’s meal just to get the box.

The place is a gathering spot for vintage car club owners, high schoolers, families and people like me who just want to relive the golden era of drive-in hamburger stands once in a while.

Boomer's is on the must-go list of many of my out-of-town friends such as Elizabeth and Darsie, shown here enjoying their Boomer's baskets.
Boomer’s is on the must-go list of many of my out-of-town friends such as those shown here enjoying their Boomer’s baskets and shakes

Boomer’s is also a ‘must-go-to’ for several of my out-of-town buddies whenever they come to visit. You might want to add it to your own list and help keep locally owned drive-ins part of the American food scene. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to have to go get a burger!

Where’s your favorite drive-in burger joint?  Let me know!

 

http://www.boomersdrivein.com/

Out of Nothing Comes A New Film

I was invited recently to an investor preview of a new documentary being produced right here in Bellingham. One of the executive producers of the film was a senior portrait client of mine, Logan Barnett. Maybe you recognize him from his senior portrait, below, featured on website.

Logan chose a favorite spot for his senior portrait.  Now, it's one of my favorite spots too!
Logan chose a favorite spot for his senior portrait. Now, it’s one of my favorite spots too!

Logan is a cool guy. As a senior, he already had a knack for the dramatic. The spot we chose for his senior picture was a  waterside location not far from his home where he often liked to go. I loved the place for its mood and range of color. The canvas print hangs in my studio too, as well as his parents home. Another cool thing about Logan, he brought his cat for some of the session. The Siamese wasn’t thrilled about sitting still for the portrait but we managed to pull off a few and ended up with a terrific image.

His cat wasn't excited about posing for the portrait, even though Logan held it securely in his arms.
His cat wasn’t excited about posing for the portrait, even though Logan held it securely in his arms.

While I couldn’t attend the preview, I received a very handsome brochure about the movie, detailing its background, budget and investment needs. ( Among those listed on the film’s team is comedian and producer Ryan Stiles.) From the description, it  sounds like a very intriguing documentary.

“Out of Nothing is a story of human perseverance, character and the pursuit of extraordinary achievement,” the brochure reads.

Out of Nothing tells the inspirational true story of four tenacious men who risk everything to conquer the world records of land speed racing. Meant for anyone who has ever had a dream, Out of Nothing is a close-up on personal character; character built not by a singular moment of success, but by the experiences that herald success.”

The feature-length documentary was filmed in high-definition video at the Bonneville Salt flats where the  brothers, Carl and Mark, set a new speed record for motorcycles.  What a backdrop for this inspirational story.

Even when a senior in high school, Logan had an artistic and confident air about him that came through in his senior portrait.
Even when a senior in high school, Logan had an artistic and confident air about him that came through in his senior portrait.

The production company has already logged in more than 90 hours of footage and are now moving into the post-production stage. They could use more investors to help them finish it up.

 

 

 

 

For more information about the film, contact Logan by e-mailing him at: OutofNothing@P51Pictures.com.