Hunting Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce: Diary of a procrastinator

By Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt Reporter

Dear Diary,

I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve been foolish in the past but I know I will have the same summer paperwork project due this year as I did last year. It’s only April, but I’m going to start collecting notes next month. I will keep it ALL in one notebook and then transfer all my data on to nice, crispy, neat forms in the fall.

Dear Diary,

To go along with my good intentions I’ve purchased a sleek notebook with a sturdy plastic cover and a nice erasable pen. I will keep it on-site and diligently collect my data. How hard is that? This is a piece of cake.

Dear Diary,

Is it June already? Ohmygosh! So stinking busy! Where’s that notebook? I looked for it for days while keeping data on odd scraps of paper. Finally bought another notebook, recorded vital data in it and *poof* the first notebook materializes. Now I’ve got data in three places. Mental note, keep it all in one spot! P.S.: I’ve got to work on my handwriting or I’ll never decipher this disaster.

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Plugged In: Keep an eye and both hands on stabilization

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Image-stabilization hardware is probably the single most useful and important advance in photographic hardware in the past 30 years, but it’s not perfect, requiring careful use for consistently good results.

Although not a substitute for a fast-enough shutter speed, image-stabilization greatly extends our ability to work in many less-than-optimal situations, such as dim light or high-magnification telephoto shots. It’s important to differentiate among the various types of IS because some are stabilized in name only.

IS hardware only compensates for your body’s inherent minute tremors that cause noticeable image blur at too-slow shutter speeds and high-magnification telephoto shots. IS can’t compensate for blur caused by a subject’s inherent motion. Still, countering blur resulting from external camera shake is exceptionally useful.

So-called “electronic image stabilization” is something of a sham. It merely bumps up the ISO sensitivity and sets a faster shutter speed. It’s most common in older consumer digital cameras and usually results in noticeably higher image noise. Electronic IS is really just an auto-ISO feature and of no real value. You can just as easily set a higher ISO yourself, and more effectively.

“Optical” IS moves a few glass elements within a lens to compensate for shake. Optical IS was initially easier to implement and, when properly designed, can result in a two to four “EV” improvement. That’s very useful, particularly with telephoto lenses.

Until recently, optical IS was generally thought superior, but that’s no longer the case. There are a few significant disadvantages — each lens must be separately stabilized, which is expensive, and optically stabilized lenses tend to be a bit larger. Some optically stabilized derivative designs, such as Tamron’s 17- to 50-mm zoom lens for APS-C digital SLR cameras, seem less sharp than earlier unstabilized versions of the same lens. That’s likely due to the more complex optical path. However, if you shoot Canon, Nikon, Samsung, Panasonic or some Sony cameras, it’s either optical IS or nothing.

The third type of IS is “sensor-shift” in which the sensor itself makes minute movements that counteract any camera shake. Pentax, Olympus and some Sony cameras use sensor-shift IS. Until recently, sensor-shift stabilization was reputedly less effective than moving a few glass elements within each lens, but over the past few years, sensor-shift IS has substantially improved. Sensor-shift IS can stabilize any lens physically attached to the camera, a very useful capability as many excellent, compact, single-magnification “prime” lenses lack built-in IS hardware. With some older lenses, though, you may need to manually input the focal length to ensure correct stabilization.

Pentax’s sensor-shift IS can act as an anti-alias filter on demand, counteracting moiré false color interference patterns. Olympus’ five-axis, sensor-shift IS built into its flagship E-M1, E-M5 and E-P5 cameras seems able to provide a 4 EV to 5 EV stabilization that’s especially effective in stabilizing handheld video. As an example, when submitting automobile accident settlement packages to insurance companies, I like to include video taken from a vehicle driving at the posted speed through the collision site to show what each driver could see at what times. Such video tends to be very bouncy due to erratic vehicle and body motion, often to the point of unusability. After I started taking accident-scene videos with an Olympus E-P5 and its five-axis magnetically suspended IS system, my handheld accident scene videos became rock solid.

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SpICE of life — Dry, cold makes early winter skaters bold

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Dan Balmer, left, and Matt Neisinger, both of Sterling, practice their hockey skills on Bottenintnin Lake on Saturday. Freezing temperatures with no snow creates conditions ripe for ice skating.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Dan Balmer, left, and Matt Neisinger, both of Sterling, practice their hockey skills on Bottenintnin Lake on Saturday. Freezing temperatures with no snow creates conditions ripe for ice skating.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

As Pete Seeger and Ecclesiastes posit, to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

An early winter like this, bereft so far of snow but with temperatures dipping below freezing and clear days beckoning people outdoors for some sort of recreation, is time to turn, turn, turn.

Laps, that is, around area lakes that have frozen over in a deepening crust. It’s ice skating season.

“This is something to look forward to, absolutely,” said Sue Seggerman, of Sterling, who was out skating on Bottenintnin Lake on Skilak Lake Loop Road with a group of friends Saturday. “And you’ve got to do it while you can. As soon as we get snow it’ll be all over.

“Some years you don’t get to go at all,” said Gail Moore, of Soldotna.

Conditions have to be just right for decent skating. A safely frozen lake is the first and foremost requirement, with ice at least 4 to 6 thick.

Tom Seggerman, of Sterling, started checking ice thickness two weeks ago in anticipation of taking his skates out of hibernation.

Tom Seggerman, of Sterling, has been skating for two weeks now, after punching test holes in the area’s shallow, quick-freezing lakes two weeks ago to test ice depth. A minimum of 4 to 6 inches is recommended.

Tom Seggerman, of Sterling, has been skating for two weeks now, after punching test holes in the area’s shallow, quick-freezing lakes two weeks ago to test ice depth. A minimum of 4 to 6 inches is recommended.

“If it’s clear ice you can look at the fractures and see how deep they are, but when it first freezes you don’t have those, so you want to punch a few holes to check. I came out here two weeks this Tuesday to get a sample and said Bottenintnin is good, let’s have a party Halloween night, and we did,” Seggerman said.

Smaller, shallower lakes freeze first. Bottenintnin is a quick freezer. Headquarters Lake, in Soldotna, is another early season favorite.

“It’s awesome out here,” said Tony Eskelin, of Soldotna, armed with a hockey stick and puck Saturday. “I go at lunch to Headquarters. You get out there with the sun, it’s amazing.”

“Talking to skaters, they’ve been raving about it, and if it keeps cool the ice should get thicker. We haven’t augered it so don’t know how thick it is. We always tell everyone to skate at their own risk,” said Candace Ward, with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Headquarters Lake is down the hill behind the refuge visitors center on Ski Hill Road. “It’s not every year people can skate it. It depends on the temperatures and how early snow comes. And the numbers that come to skate are still smallish compared to the number of skiers we’ll see when the first snow comes. It’s the time to go, though, if you want to skate outdoors, as opposed to being indoors on a frozen rink.”

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Stormy char off limits —  Restocked fish slow to grow following pike eradication

ice fishing lure copyBy Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Ice fishermen are being asked to cool it on fishing in Stormy Lake in Nikiski this winter, as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order Monday prohibiting the retention of Arctic char/Dolly Varden from Nov. 14 through April 30, 2015.
Sportfishing through the ice is allowed, using two closely attended lines with one hook or artificial lure allowed on each line. But char/Dollies pulled from the lake must immediately be returned. The fish are in a sensitive period of growth in attempting to re-establish their population in the lake.
In September 2012, the lake was treated with rotenone — a naturally occurring chemical found in the roots, seeds and leaves of several subtropical plants — to eradicate an invasive pike population that had taken over the lake and threatened to spill out into the Swanson River system. When applied to water, rotenone is an effective fish killer, as it inhibits cellular respiration and causes eventual death to fish from the reduced uptake of oxygen. It’s also been used as a pesticide and insecticide, though fish are particularly sensitive to rotenone because it easily enters their bloodstream through their gills. It biodegrades quickly and doesn’t pose a threat to humans. The powdered form has even been used to treat scabies and head lice.
Rotenone is an indiscriminate aquatic killer, so Fish and Game retrieved samples of the native species they’d like to preserve in the lake before treating it with the chemical. After the rotenone dissipated and testing showed no remaining pike in the lake, the department started reintroducing fish in 2013. Eggs had been taken from native Arctic char and reared in the William Jack Hernandez Hatchery in Anchorage, and the resulting fingerlings were restocked last summer.

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Happy hoopla — Elks Hoop Shoot offers 3-pointers to skills, confidence, success

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Delaney Smith, 8, of Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, prepares to throw a basketball during the Elks Hoop Shoot, held in the gymnasium of Soldotna Prep on Saturday. Smith won her age division and will move on to state-level competition.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Delaney Smith, 8, of Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, prepares to throw a basketball during the Elks Hoop Shoot, held in the gymnasium of Soldotna Prep on Saturday. Smith won her age division and will move on to state-level competition.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Delaney Smith, a petite 8-year-old with wire-rimmed glasses and blue nail polish standing easily a foot shorter than her competitors, looked more ready for a Battle of the Books than a battle on the court. It was a tall task for a small fry when she approached the foul line on the basketball court Saturday.

In the gymnasium of Soldotna Prep, dozens of kids ages 8 to 13 met to compete for the second tier of competition in the annual Elks Hoop Shoot Competition.

“She already won one,” said Delaney’s mother, Kim Smith, referring to the first tier of competition that took place at the school level, where Delaney was among the best of the best from Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School.

Despite her compact size, she took the ball — larger than her own head — with confidence. She dribbled a few times, then heaved the orange sphere skyward, shot-putting it more than shooting it. Then, a swish. She did this over and over again during the 25 shots she, and each contender, were allotted.

“She’s watched basketball since she was in a car seat. Her brothers and sisters and cousins all play, and she plays through the Boys and Girls Club, so she shoots every single day,” Kim Smith said.

There were plenty of kids there about whom the same could be said, though, so how did the pint-sized girl become enough of a powerhouse to win her age division Saturday and move on the next tier of state-level competition?

“I think a lot of her success comes from playing with the older kids. We’ve always left the basket high for them, so she’s really used to it,” Smith said. Continue reading

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Plugged In: In motion — Don’t let good shots pass in a blur

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Motion blur degrades image quality to a greater extent than bad gear, but good “shot discipline” can often tame these problems.

Blurring due to subject motion is the most obvious example. Motion blur occurs when the subject is moving too fast to be crisply imaged at a particular shutter speed, noticeably moving across the image area while the shutter’s open. In these situations, image-stabilization hardware is of no value — it simply compensates for the minute shaking of your body. Only a fast-enough shutter speed will help.

Subject blurring can occur with any moving subject, even windblown leaves, but it’s most common with fast-moving subjects, such as wildlife, aircraft and sports like auto racing, football and basketball. Fast-moving subjects frequently require use of a telephoto lens to magnify the relatively distant subject enough to fill the image frame. Subject blur is magnified, literally, when you’re using a telephoto lens, magnifying not only the subject’s motion but also the normal camera shake caused by your body’s tiny natural motions.

Although photographing out-door events can be challenging, indoor sporting events like school basketball games are even more difficult to photograph well. Basketball or volleyball players, for example, are usually too distant for effective use of a camera’s built-in electronic flash. Gym lights are typically too dim for fast-enough shutter speeds at normal high-quality camera settings.

This week, we’ll consider outdoor situations where there’s usually more available light and, thus, a broader range of options. In bright midday sunshine, a good starting point for proper exposure is the old “Sunny 16” rule of thumb, which suggests using the very small f/16 lens aperture and a shutter speed equal to the ISO sensitivity. Thus, at high noon on a bright summer day, your basic exposure at a camera’s typical ISO 200 base sensitivity would be a shutter speed of 1/200 second at f/16. Similarly, increasing ISO sensitivity to 400 would result in starting at a shutter speed of 1/400 second.

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Picked to pour — Alaska Berries plans winery from plant to finished product

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Brian Olson, owner of Alaska Berries, and wife, Laurie, opened their new winery about two weeks ago. It’s the only estate winery in the state — which grows all its own fruit to use in its wines.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Brian Olson, owner of Alaska Berries, and wife, Laurie, opened their new winery about two weeks ago. It’s the only estate winery in the state — which grows all its own fruit to use in its wines.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

By the time Alaska Berries opened its new winery last month, owners Brian and Laurie Olson had already spent two years of intricate, meticulously conducted, carefully recorded experimentation, testing and polling in creating their menu of fruit wines.

They built a facility just for this purpose, with conditions specifically designed for optimal wine production and storage.

They’ve spent over 10 years gradually working toward this step in their long-term plan for their farm, starting with gradually clearing and fencing their 4 acres at the end of West Poppy Lane off Kalifornsky Beach Road between Kenai and Soldotna, then cultivating and perfecting their berry plants, selling plant starts, expanding into producing and selling jams and syrups, and, finally, producing the fermented fruits of their labor.

Brian Olson has directly overseen and more-often-than-not personally planted, picked, pruned and produced this progression every step of the way. And, so, takes rightful pride in the quality of his ingredients and the fact that Alaska Berries is the only estate winery in the state — meaning the only to grow and use all its own produce in its products.

All Alaska Berries bottles bear the Alaska Grown label, and the new tasting room is decorated with signs of the blue-and-yellow logo. To Olson, Alaska Grown isn’t just a concept, it’s a personal mandate, as he’s the specific Alaskan doing the growing.

“It’s 100 percent field grown in Alaska. And I say Alaska, but what I mean is our farm. I know when people pull up here there’s no doubt in their mind, this is what we grow, this is where we harvest it, this is where we process it, it’s complete. That cycle, to me, is important,” Olson said.

You don’t get any more literally hands-on than an owner/operator of a small farm. Still, for all that direct effort and planting-to-pouring involvement, there’s one aspect of the wine that is not specifically crafted to Olson’s preference — the wine itself.

Don’t ask him to name his favorite varieties. Don’t request recommended food pairings. Don’t expect flowery descriptions of the wine’s nose — rich in earthy undertones with bright notes of fallen spruce needles and a chewy mouthfeel, or some such.

Olson doesn’t drink it — hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in 25 years, in fact. As far as he’s concerned, his nonwine-drinking tastes don’t matter. What counts is that his creations suit his customers’ palates.

“We don’t write stuff about the nuances of the flavors and the scents and all these things, because what we think of it is irrelevant. One thing I’ve learned about wine, everybody’s taste is different. Some people love one kind and hate the other, somebody loves this one and hates that one. So we said, no nuances. To me, it’s intimidating if they have all that on there and you don’t catch that peppery aftertaste and hint of molasses and caramelized pomegranate juice from a unicorn,” Olson said.

“We just want to say, ‘Hey, you’re the judge of it. Your description is what matters. Your taste is what matters.’ We want folks to come in and make their own decisions about what it tastes like and what they want to drink it with. They don’t need me to tell them that,” he said.

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