New vote count approves animal control

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

After 1,800 absentee ballots were tallied, Kenai Peninsula voters spoke in favor of animal control by a 3,388 to 3,383 count. Proposition A would have been defeated if not for the absentee and early ballots. 
Since it was an advisory vote, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is given the voters’ go-ahead to launch a boroughwide animal control department to respond in areas outside of cities.
The second question on funding the new program, however, did not meet with voter approval, by a big margin — 4,306 no to 2,451 yes. That question proposed to pay through an additional service area tax that amounted to about $3 a year per property owner.
The new borough ballot count put a further spread between incumbent Mayor Mike Navarre, who won re-election at the head of the Kenai Peninsula Borough with 5,895 to Tom Bearup’s 3,894 and Carroll Martin’s 1,000 votes. Navarre took 54 percent of the vote to Tom Bearup’s 35.9 and Carrol Martin’s 9.2 percent. That is up from the preliminary count of Navarre’s 4,794 votes to Bearup’s 3,270 and Martin’s 846 votes.

Status quo from voters

Voters most notably went for the status quo in the Oct. 7 elections. Mayor Mike Navarre agreed that voters on the borough level were satisfied with the current administration, or he would not have won re-election. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Good cameras come in portable packages

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Canon’s new G7X and other 1-inch sensor cameras are not the only models packing big camera image quality into a highly portable package. With a bit of thought, you can fit Micro Four-Thirds image quality into a jacket pocket.

As readers may recall from last week’s article, it’s the depth of the projecting lens that primarily reduces a camera’s portability, not the width and height of an otherwise thin object. Thin depth is why large screen smartphones remain easily portable.

Interchangeable-lens cameras give you a different option. You can detach the lens, which is often fairly thin, and carry the camera and lens detached. When that’s done, many rangefinder-styled M 4/3 cameras become quite portable while providing image quality and versatility that’s a large step up from 1-inch sensor cameras. Even better, the Olympus interchangeable-lens models mentioned this week, including their standard kit zoom lens, are less expensive than new Canon and Sony fixed-lens models using smaller 1-inch sensors.

Illustration 1. From left, Canon G7X, Olympus E-PL7, Olympus E-PL5 and  Panasonic GM5.

Illustration 1. From left, Canon G7X, Olympus E-PL7, Olympus E-PL5 and Panasonic GM5.

Today’s Illustration 1 shows several potentially suitable compact camera bodies. On the left is Canon’s G7X, a 1-inch sensor camera shown here with its fixed lens retracted into the camera body. Next is Olympus’ new E-PL7, a sturdy, fully featured, interchangeable-lens M 4/3 camera body. Olympus’ E-PL5 is third from the right and, at the moment, is priced competitively for a large-sensor, M 4/3 body. It’s about $200 less than the newer E-PL7 but may soon be discontinued. On the right is Panasonic’s new GM5, one of the smallest M 4/3 cameras and the most camera in this comparison. Of these, only the Panasonic GM5 includes an eye-level electronic viewfinder, a nice feature that may justify much of the GM5’s higher price.

I recently tested the portability of an Olympus E-P3, a significantly larger, heavier M 4/3 camera, in a variety of cool-weather jackets. With a very small optional Olympus 14- to 42-mm EZ electric zoom lens detached and separately carried in my jacket’s other pocket, that larger E-P3 was scarcely noticeable, although it would be too bulky when carried with any lens attached. The smaller, lighter M 4/3 Pen Lite and GM series cameras shown in Illustration 1 would be less burdensome than the E-P3.

Reattaching the zoom lens to the camera takes about 20 seconds. The standard Olympus and Panasonic 14- to 42-mm kit zooms sold with many models in the U.S. are larger but still reasonably portable.

There are a few obvious cautions. Any separated camera and lens must both be fully capped, using all body and lens caps so that there are no exposed camera body openings or glass elements. It’s also wise to find small, thin cases that closely fit the camera and lens to minimize any bumps and cosmetic damage while being carried. I also put a clear plastic screen protector on the rear LCD to reduce permanent scratching.

The best portability and image quality won’t be found with standard kit zoom lenses. Instead, so-called “pancake” lenses here provide both more compact storage and better images. Olympus’ new 14- to 42-mm EZ electrically zoomed lens, sold separately, is both the smallest and the sharpest pancake zoom lens I’ve tested so far. Used with care, it’s capable of very good images. This lens relies on the in-body image-stabilization built into Olympus M 4/3 cameras, so it’s not stabilized when used with otherwise excellent Panasonic M 4/3 camera bodies.

Panasonic’s 12- to 32-mm zoom is almost as thin as the Olympus lens, but doesn’t include any manual focus ability. In my limited tests, Panasonic’s pancake zoom lens seemed slightly very less sharp but still quite good for such a small lens. It includes built-in optical image stabilization and is sold separately or included with the GM1 and GM5 cameras. Both the Olympus and Panasonic pancake zoom lenses are very compact, less than 1 inch thick and about 2 inches in diameter. Two excellent Panasonic single-magnification pancake prime lenses, their 1-4mm f/2.5 wide-angle and 20-mm f/1.7 standard lenses, are very sharp and similarly compact.

Illustration-2. Domke f-5xb compact-system bag.

Illustration-2. Domke f-5xb compact-system bag.

If you’re willing to pack a bit more weight or able to stow a compact camera kit in your car, then several other M 4/3 options become attractive and practical, particularly when you find just the right camera system bag that’s neither too large nor too restricted. Today’s Illustration 2 shows the size of a small Domke F-5XB camera bag compared to a standard hardbound book. After several false starts with other brands, I purchased Domke’s “Ruggedwear” version that’s made of the same heavy oiled canvas used for Carhartt work clothing. I now finally understand why pro photographers have favored Domke bags for the past three decades. They’re fast and convenient in use and just feel right.

Illustration 3 shows the complete M 4/3 compact camera system that fit inside that small F-5XB Domke bag. This is a complete, high-quality yet affordable go-anywhere system weighing a mere 5 pounds, half the weight, or less, of a comparable APS-C digital SLR camera system. My go-anywhere system is built around an Olympus OM-D E-M5 weather-sealed body that I bought used from http://www.lensrentals.com, and a similarly weather-sealed Olympus 12- to 50-mm kit zoom lens with usable video and macro capabilities.

Illustration 3. Olympus OM-D EM5 kit that fits inside a Domke bag.

Illustration 3. Olympus OM-D EM5 kit that fits inside a Domke bag.

Supplementing that 12- to 50-mm Olympus zoom are an Olympus 40- to 150-mm consumer-grade telephoto zoom lens and three sharper Sigma prime lenses for M 4/3 cameras. The Sigma 19-mm wide-angle, 30-mm standard and 60-mm “short telephoto Art” series optics each have a relatively bright f/2.8 maximum lens aperture and cost between $170 and $210 new. They’re the best deal on the market for sharp, well-constructed optics. Sigma’s 60-mm DN “Art” series lens is particularly sharp, with image quality of the 30-mm model trailing only slightly. The Sigma 19-mm wide-angle is decently sharp in the center of the image. If you’re feeling affluent, then Panasonic’s 14-mm f/2.5 and 20-mm f/1.7 pancake lenses would be noticeably sharper than the 19-mm Sigma, yet still fit in the same space.

Rounding out that compact traveling system are spare batteries and memory cards, good quality Pentax soft lens pouches for each lens, inexpensive, screw-in vented metal lens shades from Amazon, an Olympus 15-mm “body-cap” lens for fun effects, and Olympus’ small clip-on flash unit included with the OM-D E-M5 camera body. That’s a complete, and generally affordable, camera system capable of very high-quality images yet weighing only 5 pounds and fitting into a camera bag scarcely larger than a hardbound book.

The ultimate determinant of good photos is, of course, not your gear but your “shot discipline,” where personal skill and knowledge are central. That’s the subject of next week’s article.

Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.

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View From Out West: Life lived large — Troyer leaves lasting legacy on terrain, traveling partners

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and Janeice Fair (now Amick) pause along the trail into the East Creek drainage in 1981.

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

What I recall most were his energetic, rollicking stories and his booming, hearty laugh. I also recall his alpine hat, often canted slightly backward, his love of fruit pie and a good after-dinner nap, and, primarily, the hunting trips he took with my father.

Almost as far back as I can remember, Will Troyer, who died Sept. 21, less than two weeks shy of his 89th birthday, was part of my father’s life. For more than four decades Dad and Will were devoted friends.

Although they hadn’t known each other back when they were boys, both had been Hoosiers, raised in the same part of the state, and they reminisced fondly about growing up in Indiana. In their early days together in Alaska — between hiking, hunting and fishing together — they strategized in tandem for the preservation of Alaska wilderness through the Kenai Conservation Society. They also united our families in a bond of friendship that has stretched across the years.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair . Troyer, Clark Fair (back to camera), Troyer’s son Eric, and one of Troyer’s early English setters rest after reaching Devil’s Pass in the Chugach Mountains prior to hunting for ptarmigan in 1971.

Our family met Will’s (wife, LuRue, and three children, Janice, Eric and Teresa) through the Kenai Methodist Church in about 1963, when the Troyers moved from Kodiak so Will could become the manager of the Kenai National Moose Range. A self-proclaimed “Amish/Mennonite farm boy,” Will spent 30 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service before retiring in 1981. Unlike many refuge managers today, Will continued to work in the field, flying aerial moose surveys and performing numerous other duties outside of the office.

He is largely responsible for the names of perhaps 200 lowland lakes on today’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and he personally hand-cut many of the original portages on the refuge’s extensive canoe system. For the Park Service, he traveled widely across the state. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he assisted in damage assessment on Cook Inlet beaches, and in recent years he published three memoirs about his life.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Photo by Calvin Fair, courtesy of Clark Fair. Will and one of his setters catch a nap during an exhausting moose-packing session in 1972.

Will had the resonating kind of voice that even my hard-of-hearing father could easily discern. Dad often found it unnecessary to turn up the volume on the telephone when Will would call about another outing. He didn’t need his hearing aids when Will was regaling us with stories around the dinner table.

With fond hearts for the out-of-doors, Dad and Will planned adventures together, continuing even after the Troyers moved away from the Kenai Peninsula. Their outings increased in the 1980s when Will and LuRue moved back, establishing their retirement home off Bean Creek Road in Cooper Landing.

For years, even when Dad was in his 60s and Will was in his 70s, they tromped down woodsy trails along Swanson River Road to stalk tasty grouse and took annual trips together to the rolling wheat fields of North Dakota to flush pheasants from the grain.

They also made frequent pilgrimages to Kodiak Island to bust through alders after nimble deer, and they climbed with their English setters into the upper drainages of Shaft Creek, East Creek and Devil’s Creek to blast at ptarmigan bolting from scattered copses of willow.

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Built to blast — Gunsmithing workshop aims for information

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

“It’s kind of like the idea of a Tupperware party,” said Scott Hamann. Except it was all men gathered Saturday morning, rather than the more-typical women Tupperware crowd. And instead of taking home plastic food-storage containers, attendees left with their own semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.

Having a firearm to take home wasn’t even the primary purpose of the day. The event was more for educational purposes, to learn how to build the gun, how it works and how to take care of it.

“Our country was founded on the principles laid down in the Bill of Rights, but what good is the right to bear a firearm if you don’t know how to use one?” said Hamann, coordinator for an AR-15 building class at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai.

The idea for the class grew from a humble beginning, according to Hamann. A longtime gun enthusiast, a little more than a year ago he decided that, rather than buying another gun, he would build his own AR-15. Due to the rifle’s popularity in this country, there are no shortage of build tutorials in books, magazines and on the Internet.

Hamann enjoyed the experience, and as he told a few of his friends about the endeavor, several mentioned that if he was interested in doing it again, they’d like to join him.

“Before you knew it, we had a whole group of people who wanted to build one, so we all got together and did it and it was a lot of fun,” he said.

They planned another build for the Fourth of July, Hamann said, since celebrating the freedom to own a firearm seemed like an important concept to remember on the Independence Day holiday. But even after that, still more people wanted to learn how to build their own rifles.

However, with the AR-15 often being at the center of controversy in the media and among anti-gun activists, Hamann said that he wanted to find a way to tie the build class into support for Second Amendment freedoms.

“The field representative from the NRA contacted me to see if there was a way we could raise funds, and this seemed like something we could do,” he said.

Hamann and a few other firearm enthusiasts formed the Alaska Defenders of Freedom, a group established to raise funds for political purposes.

“One hundred percent of all money — above the costs of the firearms and tool kits — from these classes goes to the NRA-ILA,” Hamann said, referring to the Institute for Legislative Action, which is the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

Hamann’s group worked with Valley Armory in Palmer and the Soldotna-based Black Dog Firearms in order to gather all the necessary parts to build an AR-15, putting them into individually packaged kits, and to comply with gun regulations.

Before the building began Saturday, Mike Misner, an employee of Black Dog Firearms, ran background checks on all participants through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and completed all necessary paperwork to transfer to the participants the receivers of the rifles, which house the operating parts of the gun and are, by law, considered the actual firearm and thus are strictly controlled.

“You gotta make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted with this kind of thing,” Misner said.

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Hauling in a new industry — Boat haul-outs take artful engineering

Photo by Peter S. Ford. The M/V Stormbird, a World War II-era ship owned by Clem Tillion, of Halibut Cove, was pulled out last spring. A growing demand for haul-outs means work can be done in Homer.

Photo by Peter S. Ford. The M/V Stormbird, a World War II-era ship owned by Clem Tillion, of Halibut Cove, was pulled out last spring. A growing demand for haul-outs means work can be done in Homer.

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

A research vessel and a former crabber were getting hauled out on the beach below Pier One Theatre at the Homer Spit last week, an endeavor attracting its own reality show audience in the cars that pull over to watch.
The Qualifier 105 research vessel and the F/V Susitna are each more than 100 feet in length and form quite a contrast. One is a sleek white craft that’s traveled the Alaska coast for gold mining divers in Nome and field biologists. The other is a hulk that’s retired from its Bering Sea crabbing days for a new life in freight.

When Earl Brock, owner of Salvage and Sales, orchestrates their haul-out, the vessels sit on dry land in the camping grounds to get repaired by marine tradesmen. Since Homer doesn’t yet have a heavy vessel haul-out facility, the process for pulling these behemoth boats out of the water is a large logistical undertaking.

“I had to figure the process out. I had no mentor and few resources when I started,” Brock said. “I watched them do it on an easy boat and thought, ‘I would never do it that way.’”
Brock has hauled boats out in Nome, Bethel and other coastal areas since 2006. He brought his operation to Homer when requests came in last year.

For the first time, six vessels were onshore near the Homer Harbor to get their work done. The advantage allows the big vessels to remain near their own home port, instead of expensive traveling to one of Alaska’s shipyards in Seward, Kodiak, Ketchikan or Dutch Harbor — or farther away to Puget Sound.

“All of the shipyards have their own circumstances,” Brock said. “You might wait six months in Ketchikan to get your boat in. In Seward, you might get your boat in, but won’t have all the marine trades you need to get things done.”
Brock’s system uses high-powered haul equipment, industrial air bags and natural tidal power to bring even the largest boats in the harbor to dry shore. There they undergo hull work, painting, repairs or prop work.

It’s a careful series of steps based on ancient concepts probably first strategized in Egypt, Brock said.

“I think of it as a logistical opera or opus,” said Peter Ford, one of Brock’s crew. “There are so many movements. Each has to be in place and doing its part, and it has to come together all at once.”

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Plugged In: Find the Goldilocks of pocketable cameras

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Good things are said to come in small packages, and that’s increasingly true of compact, highly mobile camera gear capable of making great images, whether on vacation, on the trail or while driving to work.

I’ve preferred traveling as light as possible ever since winter hunting trips flown 35 years ago in a small Taylorcraft. There was scant cargo space or weight allowance for rifles and winter survival gear, so we quickly learned to make the most of every ounce and every cubic inch. That same challenge still faces today’s photographers, backpackers, hunters and travelers, especially those who want to make high-quality images while traveling light.

Although a cellphone’s camera function is certainly light and compact, it’s not especially versatile nor capable of making technically adequate images except of nearby subjects in bright sunshine. On the other hand, I recall with a bemused shudder the person I recently saw walking around Portland, Oregon with his family on a hot day, obviously vacationing, yet bogged down by a hulking bag of heavy full-frame camera gear. Some vacation.

As is so often true, the most sensible solution lies somewhere between these extremes. Prominent among the new cameras introduced at this year’s Photokina trade show is a variety of premium compact cameras that pack excellent image quality into surprisingly small, versatile camera bodies. These now use larger sensors with better low-light capabilities.

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Open arms — Arming future stewards with knowledge of the past

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Dr. Alan Boraas, anthropology professor at Kenai Peninsula College, discusses a Dena’ina house pit excavation with Dave Guilfoyle, an archaeologist with Applied Archaeology Australia, and assistant Genevieve Carey, near the Kenai Armory recently.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Dr. Alan Boraas, anthropology professor at Kenai Peninsula College, discusses a Dena’ina house pit excavation with Dave Guilfoyle, an archaeologist with Applied Archaeology Australia, and assistant Genevieve Carey, near the Kenai Armory recently.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Sparkling bubbles of laughter wafted across the tree-sprinkled knob, borne on a breeze that ruffled the frail fall foliage and momentarily disrupted its gentle autumnal recoil back into the dirt. The revelers were too far away to make out what was being shrieked and said, but the universal language of kids at play translated as clearly as the warm glow from the low-angle afternoon sun.

The creek in the ravine below swelled rich with the seasonal substance of spawning salmon. Above, people walked from a house site in the trees to a string of food storage pits lining the edge of the bluff, pausing to take in the views over Kenai to the east and Cook Inlet to the south, the landscape stained with September hues.

In this scene the time frame could have been the better part of 1,000 years ago, the people being Dena’ina villagers who lived in a collection of houses stretched out along the meandering creek. The spot was likely chosen for its access to timber for firewood and house logs, abundance of fish and game animals for food, and the well-drained soil that freezes in winter and softens for digging in the summer, allowing salmon to be stored in cache pits in the ground that would sustain the villagers all winter long.

But, in fact, it was 2014, and the people on the hillside off South Forest Lane in Kenai last month were anthropologists, investigating the remnants of those who inhabited that spot close to a millennium ago. On that sunny, mild fall day, with the sounds of kids playing in Kenai Municipal Park nearby, it was easy to picture the once-upon-a-time life of the Dena’ina villagers as calm and content.

“Working in this place I’m thinking about when people were living here. We hear kids when we’re working out here, and you imagine kids were probably running around playing (back then), too,” said Dave Guilfoyle, an archaeologist with Applied Archaeology Australia, who conducted a cultural resource survey at the site over the summer.

“This time of year they were fishing down at that creek. And somebody was working on the pits, getting ready for winter, and looking out at this amazing view across the gorge,” said Dr. Alan Boraas, anthropology professor at Kenai Peninsula College, who visited the site to consult with Guilfoyle.

Fast-forward hundreds of years, though, and the scene wouldn’t have been as tranquil. The sounds of kids laughing and breezes ruffling the trees would be drowned out by construction noises, of South Forest Lane and the subdivision beyond it to the west, of the Kenai Spur Highway to the north and, in 1973, the Kenai Armory building a stone’s throw away.

On the armory property activity has been distinctly not serene over the years — troop drills, training exercises and even tank maneuvers on the cleared field, the building bustling with people and vehicles, both military and civilian as the armory building has been used for community events and as an emergency shelter location. All without realizing that, hidden in the grass, were the remnants of a Dena’ina village.

“The first thing is to protect these areas from the Army itself, because they do training out here still,” Guilfoyle said. “The focus really for this stage is a management plan for the property, and then more research and more archaeology will be part of that plan.”

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Filed under Dena'ina, history, military