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Grave concern — Volunteers undertake cemetery preservation

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Tracy Miller, president of the Totem Tracers genealogical society, examines the remains of the Kasilof Boat Harbor Cemetery. The group is trying to preserve the site and expound on its history.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Tracy Miller, president of the Totem Tracers genealogical society, examines the remains of the Kasilof Boat Harbor Cemetery. The group is trying to preserve the site and expound on its history.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Up until about a year ago, you wouldn’t think there was anything special about the seemingly vacant lot along the last bend of Kasilof Beach Road before reaching the north beach of the river mouth.

But there’s more than just untamed grass sprinkled with trees and wildflowers, and littered with trash, toilet paper flags and other evidence of the illicit camping and vandalism that’s plagued the area during fishing season. There are indications of habitation that have stood for a century, but without intervention, won’t be standing for much longer.

That’s where Tracy Miller and the Totem Tracers genealogical society come in. The group has taken it upon itself to preserve the old Kasilof Boat Harbor Cemetery before the little-known burial site is lost to all but history.

“It’s an abandoned cemetery, it needed some help. These people, their headstones were made well enough that somebody cared enough for it to last over time. So I think that our generation at least should pick up and make sure that maybe they’ll last another 50 years, or 100 years,” Miller said.

In the late 1970s, the Totem Tracers set out to catalog all graves on the Kenai Peninsula, from Hope to Homer, and produced a book of their findings in 1983, which was updated in 2004.

“The genealogical society, we like dead people,” Miller said. “We like the history of it. We get a lot of local people trying to find relatives, and we’re hoping to be able to at least give them a little bit of help.”

The project unearthed a lot of interesting history, and one of the most intriguing finds was the Kasilof burial site. There are four century-old graves surrounded by wood picket fences, with 5-foot-tall, rounded, cedar plank-grave markers affixed to the fences, bearing raised lettering still legible today.

The oldest says, “In memory of William Freeman, a native of Finland. Aged 65 years. Died Sept. 30, 1906.” Next is Alex Benson, of Sweden, who died at age 38 on May 6, 1907. Harry Mason, of Norway, died June 4, 1915, at age 67.

A grave marker from the cemetery made its way to storage in the anthropology lab at Kenai Peninsula College after it was apparently stolen from the site.

A grave marker from the cemetery made its way to storage in the anthropology lab at Kenai Peninsula College after it was apparently stolen from the site.

The fourth marker is no longer at the site. It’s believed to have been stolen around 1980, and was discovered in a ditch around 1990. Soldotna Police found it and it ended up with Dr. Alan Boraas, anthropology professor at Kenai Peninsula College, who has been storing it in the school’s anthropology lab. It reads, “In memory of Fred Sandel, a native of Finland, aged 70, died Oct. 9, 1925.”

Another marker was documented in the book, as well — a long, thin board that is thought to mark a mass grave of Chinese men. And one newer grave, for Peter Bates Walker, born May 10, 1935, died Oct. 31, 1982, who lived next to the cemetery, also is at the site.

Other than Bates being noted as “Good father, husband, friend,” there is no further information about those buried beneath the markers. No epitaphs to hint at who they were, what happened to them, or why four Scandinavians and an undetermined number of Chinese men were living, much less buried, in Kasilof around the turn of the century.

The Totem Tracers don’t know much for sure, but they’d like to find out. First, though, this summer, they’d like to preserve the history, and then in the winter start working on the mystery.

“It’s history and I have a fascination for cemeteries, genealogy. I just want to know who these people were,” Miller said.

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No paper this week — Happy Fourth of July

The Redoubt Reporter will return July 8. Happy Independence Day.

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No paper this week — Happy Memorial Day

The Redoubt Reporter will return June 3.

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Plugged In: Tighten settings when shooting in low light

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Recent advances in high-ISO digital technology have greatly expanded both practical and artistic photographic capabilities, allowing casual photographers to readily capture images and data previously unobtainable with a hand-held camera.

Practical uses include photo-graphing construction details in the dark recesses of a troubled project, distant wildlife at first light and industrial operations at night. Artistically, good low-light capabilities provide new ways to visualize and depict the world around us rather than merely imitating the past.

After some trial and much error, I’ve evolved a personal low-light exposure and post-processing technique that relies on the high dynamic range of RAW image files from specific cameras to produce large, high-quality, fine-art prints. Fine-art prints are usually at the apex of output quality, so this same technique should be workable for day-to-day practical applications, as well. Your mileage may vary, of course.

jk Illustration 2 - water tub and fencingThe low-light exposure concepts that I’ll discuss today, and the post-processing software techniques that I’ll discuss next week, work well for me. In the Web version of this article, which you can find by pointing your Internet Web browser to http://www.redoubtreporter.wordpress.com, we’ve posted several examples from my new solo photo exhibit, “Veiled Images,” which opens at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kachemak Bay Campus gallery Feb. 27. All images in the exhibit were shot hand-held at ISO 1,600 to ISO 3,200 in very dim light, and then printed quite large, about 23 inches on the long side. Next week, we’ll take a look at the specific post-processing techniques used to optimize these photos.

Overexposure and flat contrast are among the most common problems encountered in low-light photography, aside from camera shake and subject motion blurring. Almost by definition, low-light situations really do tend to be dark, with deep shadows, a few too-bright highlights and poor separation of the midtones. Photos of these situations should not be unnaturally bright if they’re to look true to life, yet we need to preserve contrast between adjacent midtones and not lose detail in the brighter areas. Exposure tailored to facilitate later post-processing is crucial.

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Sense, defense — Sterling Judo Club holds class in women’s self-protection

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Caitlin Sturman, of Kenai, tries to get out of a headlock imposed by her sister, Carly Sturman, during a free self-defense class for women put on last week by the Sterling Judo Club.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Caitlin Sturman, of Kenai, tries to get out of a headlock imposed by her sister, Carly Sturman, during a free self-defense class for women put on last week by the Sterling Judo Club.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are 237,868 victims of rape or sexual assault each year in the U.S., with the majority of victims being women. It’s a sobering statistic, one which the Sterling Judo Club hopes to decrease on the central Kenai Peninsula. On Friday, the club offered a self-defense class for women free of charge.

“The statistics for sexual assault crimes for Alaska are some of the highest in the country, and it’s not just happening in the villages. It’s happening in the cities, too,” said Sensei Robert Brink, a black belt in judo and one of the primary instructors of the Sterling Judo Club.

Brink explained the importance of self-defense for women is to empower them to not make it easy for would-be predators. Often, attackers are dissuaded when women defend themselves, he said.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean fighting, although at times that may be necessary. It also means having an awareness of dangerous situations and learning how to avoid them or get out of them. It means more than just putting up your arms and giving up,” he said.

Brink was not the instructor of the women’s class, though. It was led by a visiting instructor from Las Vegas, Sensei Kati Gibler, who has been a judo practitioner for 25 years. She expanded on the idea of awareness of when sexual assaults often can occur.

“It’s just like hiking, in which you have to avoid steep terrain and watch for signs of bear activity. With self-defense, avoidance means recognizing the hazards,” she said.

As examples, Gibler cited the bar scene, where men and women may have a loss of inhabitations from drinking.

“You mental state is altered, you don’t have the same coordination, and, unfortunately, for some men, there is a perception that if a lady is in a bar they’re fair game,” she said.

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In a word: Revival — Language class speaks to effort to revitalize Dena’ina

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jolene Sutherland, left, laughs with Dena’ina elder Helen Dick, of Lime Village, during a session of a Dena’ina language class offered this semester at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. Dick, one of the few Dena’ina language speakers around who learned the language as a child, visited the class to help with pronunciations and support the effort to not only preserve the language that was in danger of dying out, but to help it thrive.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jolene Sutherland, left, laughs with Dena’ina elder Helen Dick, of Lime Village, during a session of a Dena’ina language class offered this semester at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. Dick, one of the few Dena’ina language speakers around who learned the language as a child, visited the class to help with pronunciations and support the effort to not only preserve the language that was in danger of dying out, but to help it thrive.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Shizhi Besi qilan. Shugu shqiya qilanda Kahtnu. Shugu yeshdu da.

When translated, the students in a Dena’ina language class at Kenai Peninsula College weren’t saying much. Just practicing simple greetings in the Cook Inlet dialect of Dena’ina, the language spoken by the Athabascan Natives indigenous to the Kenai Peninsula region.

Literally: My name Besi it is. Thus it is my village Kenai it is. Thus it is where do you sit?

More familiarly in English: My name is Besi (Dena’ina for “owl.”) I live in Kenai. Where do you live?

But for a language that, not long ago, was in very real danger of dying out, speaking at all communicates much more than just, “Hi, where’re you from?”

Contorting the mouth to make sounds that don’t exist in English says, “I value this heritage.”

Coaxing the words from memory, rather than peeking at written notes, demonstrates integration with Dena’ina culture and traditions.

The mere fact that 15 students — many of whom are young adults — are taking the semesterlong language class at KPC communicates that the effort to not only rescue, but revitalize the language is gaining momentum.

“This is the language of this community,” said class instructor Sondra Shaginoff-Stuart. “It’s the validation of who you are. I think what’s important is a lot of our families heal from (the disconnection of) not being able to speak their language. I think so much has been lost, and the thought of having identity to a place where there was a language there — your family’s language — and to bring that to the surface, I think is really important to bring about healing for a community. For individuals that are of the language, I think it’s a sign of identity, that they can speak their language that couldn’t be spoken before. And just bringing that language to the forefront, it’s an important language for our community, for everybody.”

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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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