Plugged In: Choose concept, content, style for photos

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Although technical excellence is a necessary first step in choosing your best photographs, it’s not sufficient. Your best photos should stand out for their strong and unique content, concept and personal style.

A photo’s content is nothing more than its subject and, as appropriate, the subject’s surrounding context. Documentary photographs usually include more surrounding context. Abstract ­appearing photographs often achieve their sense of abstraction by eliminating as much surrounding context as possible, focusing on only the most interesting portion of the subject and eliminating the visual cues that identify the subject.

Extensive post­-processing of supposedly documentary photographs raises a number of ethical issues. On the flip side, “Photoshopping” more abstract ­appearing images is both useful and a generally accepted path to a visually interesting final result. As with the photographs themselves, it depends on the context. The popularity of various subjects routinely waxes and wanes. As an example, documentary photographs were rarely seen among “art” photographs a decade or two ago, but are now the norm, while abstract-appearing images are currently out of vogue.

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‘Lucky’ on Lilac Lane — No injuries, deaths in gas explosions after earthquake

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The shell of a home at 1211 Lilac Lane stands beyond the complete wreckage of a home at 1213 Lilac that exploded from a natural gas leak caused by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake Sunday.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The shell of a home at 1211 Lilac Lane stands beyond the complete wreckage of a home at 1213 Lilac that exploded from a natural gas leak caused by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake Sunday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

While the loss of four homes is nothing to be celebrated, residents and emergency responders to natural gas-fueled explosions on Lilac Lane in Kenai following the magnitude 7.1 earthquake early Sunday morning are calling the situation miraculous, since no one was hurt and everyone got out alive.

“The second house, when it exploded, it blew off its foundation, it blew its garage door across the street and then caught the home on fire,” said Kenai Fire Chief Jeff Tucker. “It just happened that nobody was around there. We had crews within a pretty close distance of it. There was a tree out in front of the home that blocked a bunch of the debris from flying too far and injuring anybody. So we were lucky there was nobody in the area at the time of the explosion.”

Residents along Lilac Lane, Cook Inlet View Drive and Wells Way were evacuated early Sunday while emergency responders and utility companies worked around the clock to stop gas leaks in the area. The neighborhood parallels the Kenai Spur Highway on the Cook Inlet bluff side, behind Doyle’s Fuel Service, across the highway from Wildwood Correctional Facility.

Misty Schoendaller lives at 1215 Lilac. She was drifting off to sleep when the earthquake hit at 1:30 a.m. She got dressed, grabbed her cellphone and headed outside.

“About the time I got out the door the house next to mine exploded and knocked me back. And when the explosion happened it was really weird because it was like coming out from the kitchen area, and the front of the house kind of came out and then went back in, and black smoke everywhere. I mean, it was bad. It was real bad,” Schoendaller said.

She called 911 and ran to next door to 1213 to see if she could help. Vinnie Calderon was in the front yard, shouting for his family to get outside. Miraculously, neither he, his fiancée nor the two kids in the house were injured in the explosion.

This home at 1211 Lilac was one of four destroyed by natural gas explosions and fires Sunday following the earthquake. Janice Gottschalk lived there with her fiancé, brother and three kids.

This home at 1211 Lilac was one of four destroyed by natural gas explosions and fires Sunday following the earthquake. Janice Gottschalk lived there with her fiancé, brother and three kids.

Janice Gottschalk lives with her fiancé, brother and three kids at 1211 Lilac, to the left of Calderon.

“About 1:30 a.m. the earthquake hit, and probably about 1:40, 1:45 a.m. I heard my neighbor’s house blow up,” she said. “The gas blew off the roof. They thankfully made it out. And then we were all told probably about five minutes later to evacuate our house, as well,” she said.

Kenai police officers arrived within minutes of the explosion, Schoendaller said.

“There were things on fire outside of the house on the ground and the Kenai police were trying to extinguish it with extinguishers, and it just kept coming back,” she said.

The neighbors piled into an apartment across the street as the Kenai Fire Department worked on Calderon’s house, about a dozen people anxiously waiting for whatever might come next.

By 3 a.m., emergency personnel noticed a strong smell of gas in the area and told neighborhood residents they had to evacuate.

When she left Lilac, Schoendaller expected to come back to her home.

“I didn’t think anything was going to happen with my house because the fire department was here and it looked like they were going to be able to contain it, so nobody thought they were going to lose their homes except that one (that exploded),” she said.


An emergency shelter was set up at the Kenai National Guard Armory. Sgt. 1st Class Albert Burns got the phone call from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management.

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Quake breaks K-Beach Road

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A 150-foot section of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kasilof was damaged in the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Work crews began repairs Monday and both lanes were open Wednesday morning.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A 150-foot section of Kalifornsky Beach Road near Kasilof was damaged in the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Work crews began repairs Monday and both lanes were open Wednesday morning.


Kalifornsky Beach Road reopened to two-way traffic Wednesday morning.

“They got in there, cut the pavement up, brought material in, filled the holes and leveled it out. Now, it will be gravel, of course, until the summer, because we can’t pave in the wintertime — it would not set. But it is open to two-way traffic,” said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy.

DOT will continue to monitor the area, especially during spring breakup as the ground starts to thaw.

“We certainly will monitor the area. I don’t think it will become a mess but you can always have shifting, even with any road. And that’s why they brought in the compactors and things like that to really shore up and tighten up that area, but they’ll of course keep an eye on it and if any additional material needs to be brought in, they will do that,” McCarthy said.

The paving project should be quick, as well.

We were fortunate that was a short section so it will probably be a very straightforward project, just putting together a permanent repair,” she said.

DOT is asking drivers to reduce their speed and use caution as they drive over that section of road.

Original story:

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Though one lane of Kalifornsky Beach Road was still open to traffic Sunday afternoon, many drivers heading between Kenai and Kasilof stopped of their own volition. They wanted to see the gaping cracks in the pavement that occurred when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska around 1:30 that morning.

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Missing those who take their lives — Suicides leave years of turmoil

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Three suicides in a month on the central Kenai Peninsula — all young adults — have sent family, friends and co-workers into a state of sorrow and shock.

Those left grieving for the deceased may be struggling with questions that don’t have answers, such as, “Why did they do it?” “Why didn’t I see it coming?” and, “Was there anything more I could have done?”

“You can learn a lot from those kinds of questions, but you have to be careful not to get stuck on them,” said Pegge Erkeneff, of Kasilof, speaking firsthand about coping with loss of a loved one. Sunday marked the 10-year anniversary of the date her 16-year-old-son, Justin, died by suicide.

“With an unexpected, abrupt death, there’s a trauma that happens, and it takes time to learn how to shape your life around it,” she said. “The important thing to remember is suicide takes someone out of their life against their will. It’s not a rational choice in the way a mentally healthy person would make a decision.”

According to the American Association of Suicidology, there were 167 suicides in Alaska in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. This equated to 22.7 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people, making Alaska the second-highest state in the nation for per-capita suicides, behind Montana with 251 suicides, or 24.5 per 100,000 people.

These deaths have a ripple effect. According to the AAS, for every death by suicide, an average of 147 people are affected. Among those, 18 will experience a major life disruption.

“There’s no right or wrong way to get through. I have no bumper sticker platitudes to share because I always hated hearing them. It just takes years — YEARS — for the shock to wear off,” Erkeneff said.

Even 10 years later, she is still surprised at the grief that can unexpectedly come over her.

“You get through it. People say you will, one step at a time, but for me, I got through crawling. My shower became my best friend. For months afterward I would stand in there, so I could be alone and cry with no one hearing. I’d stay in there ’til the water got cold,” she said.

Eventually, she found that talking to others was invaluable to her well-being, Erkeneff said.

“You have to walk it alone, but you need to talk to people when you’re ready,” she said.

When Erkeneff started communicating with the people in her life, a picture began to present itself that otherwise wouldn’t have, especially since her son didn’t outwardly display a lot of the suicide warning signs, such as: Talking or joking about suicide, researching suicide methods or shopping for firearms, talking about feelings of hopelessness or not having a reason to live, talking about feeling trapped within their life or feeling like a burden to others, using drugs or alcohol, acting agitated or behaving recklessly, withdrawing or isolating themselves, sleeping too much or too little, displaying extreme mood swings or showing signs of rage or seeking revenge.

“In an attempt to try and understand it, after he died we started talking to his friends and our neighbors, and we began to learn things we individually couldn’t have noticed. Things began to fit like pieces of a puzzle, but it was all things that we couldn’t have known. It all came after the fact, and that’s another complex thing about suicide,” she said.

Erkeneff said that this is why it is so important for parents to talk to kids about suicide.

“He wasn’t capable of understanding the repercussions to everyone else, the pain of his absence with everyone else,” she said.

Erkeneff still lives with the pain of not having Justin in her life. She is still healing, but also is still moving forward.

“The only way through is through,” she said.

For those in crisis, grieving after a suicide or worried about someone hurting themselves, Careline Alaska has a 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 1-877-266-4357 (HELP), or people can text from 3 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays though Saturdays, by sending text4help to 839863.

There also is a local Mental Health Emergency Line at 907-283-7511. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). For emergencies, dial 9-1-1.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Brewing news — Snow Goose migrates to new owners, Bearpaw River stomps on the scene

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. The Snow Goose and Sleeping Lady Brewery in Anchorage has been purchased by the company that owns 49th State Brewing in Healy.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. The Snow Goose and Sleeping Lady Brewery in Anchorage has been purchased by the company that owns 49th State Brewing in Healy.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

It’s now 2016, but since my last column there have been a couple of big changes in the world of Alaska craft beer. Things are starting to get pretty dynamic, with breweries opening and changing hands. So let’s take a look at these recent developments.

In late December, local beer lovers were startled by the news that Denali Visions 3000, the corporation that owns up-and-coming 49th State Brewing, the seasonal brewpub in Healy near Denali National Park, had purchased the longtime Anchorage brewpub combination Snow Goose Pub/Sleeping Lady Brewery.

Opened in 1996, Snow Goose/Sleeping Lady was from the original wave of brewpub openings in Alaska. Besides several other now-defunct operations, Glacier BrewHouse and the Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria (now Broken Tooth Brewing) date from the same time frame. Owner Gary Klopfer and his wife, Jane, made extensive renovations to the location over the last two decades, including the addition of a popular deck with views overlooking Knik Arm and Mount Susitna. In an interview, Klopfer said he’d considered selling for several years. He has one daughter who he’d hoped might take over, but she works in publishing in New York City and isn’t interested in running the business. He will retain a small ownership stake in the new venture.

The Snow Goose closed Dec. 26. The new owners plan an extensive, three-year renovation of the 28,000-square-foot facility and hope to restart regular food service in the spring or early summer 2016. Some of the more popular beers from Sleeping Lady’s portfolio may continue to be produced, but will be sold under the 49th State Brewing label.

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BlueCrest nearing end of construction phase

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

BlueCrest Energy is continuing preparations to drill for oil in the Cosmopolitan Unit at its 37.5-acre site on the Cook Inlet bluff about 5.5 miles north of Anchor Point.

Larry Burgess, health, safety and environmental manager for the Texas-based BlueCrest, told the Kenai Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that the company’s 3,000-horsepower drilling rig is nearing completion in Houston. It should ship out for Alaska soon and will take 45 days to arrive, at which point crews will go to work getting it assembled and running.

“Once it gets here I think it will be the largest operating rig in the state of Alaska, capable of drilling up to 30,000-foot-long wells,” Burgess said.

All 10 of the injection oil wells in the inlet will be directionally drilled from onshore. The wells will have a vertical depth of 7,000 to 7,500 feet and could extend out as much as 25,000 feet.

“So these are very challenging and difficult wells to drill,” he said.

The plan is to truck the oil up the Sterling Highway to Tesoro for processing.

Burgess said the site currently employs 48 people. Local hires have comprised about 60 percent of the workforce, until recently when that ratio has dipped to under 50 percent. The main contractor handling construction is Elkhorn Holdings, from Wyoming, but most of the subcontractors are local.

“We’re trying real hard to hire as many locals as possible but, believe it or not, it’s not as easy as you’d think for some of those jobs,” he said.

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Plugged In: Hard looks make easy work of photo curation

By Joe Kashi, Redoubt Reporter

Initially discarding technically deficient photographs is only the first step in arriving at a coherent set of consistently good photographs. Now it’s time to pull together your remaining digital files into a single location, personally curate your own work and showcase only your best images, those you’ll be proud to show to anyone other than a loyal canine friend.

Technical concerns are less daunting by this intermediate stage, but comparing and selecting your best work can seem daunting and beset by indecision. There are billions of technically excellent but supremely boring images floating in digital space. How will you distinguish yourself? Through personal curation — a process in which you methodically sort through your work to find the best images with broad appeal.

Rank beginners, including myself not so many years ago, typically inundate their viewers with every mediocre, unrelated but possibly interesting image on their memory cards, in the hope that something “sticks.” That’s unworkable. You’ll bore your viewers and fatally dilute the impact of your best work in a way reminiscent of those horror stories recounting interminable 1960s vacation slideshows.

Over the years, I’ve evolved a basic approach when sorting the wheat from the chaff, particularly when preparing a solo exhibit for viewers who are apt to be critical, such as practicing artists and art professors at various university galleries. The first step is to winnow out those photographs that only a mother — in this case, the photographer — can “love.”

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