Cleaning up toxicants..in the lab

I had the privilege to be in a class (The Science and Management of Contaminated Sites) that explored the relationship between science and media during my last quarter at college. The class prepared graduating toxicologists and journalists for the important work of talking about science to the general public. With a dream team of a toxicologist, a writer, and me (the visual journalist), we created a documentary about activated carbon, an emerging sediment cleanup technology, and reported on a lab group studying the effectiveness of activated carbon under a variety of environmental conditions.

I spent a ton of time with the lab group documenting their progress and learning about the experiment they designed. Unfortunately not all environmental science can be done outside, so I had to make sure I could portray the lab environment in a variety of ways.

Cabiyo and Craig inspect the control solutions of PCBs. Their experiment consists of 16 variations of environmental factors and a control. The factors include water hardness, a low pH of 6 and high of 8, and humic acid, which is when decomposed organic material is present in water.

Bodie Cabiyo and Thomas Craig inspect control solutions of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) , toxic organic chemicals that are harmful to living organisms and stay in the environment for a long time. Their experiment consisted of 16 variations of environmental factors that include water hardness, a low pH of 6 and high of 8, and humic acid. They tested how these factors affected activated carbon’s ability to capture PCBs.

Craig retrieves sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which the team will add to water to raise its pH level to 8. When they first began adjusting pH, the concentration of their NaOH solution was not strong enough. “We can’t get much more concentrated than this!” Craig said.

Craig retrieves sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which the team added to water to raise its pH level to 8. When they first began adjusting pH, the concentration of their NaOH solution was not strong enough. “We can’t get much more concentrated than this!” Craig said.

Daughtrey mixes solutions of varying water hardness, which is one of the environmental factors they add to the sediment.

Shannon Daughtrey mixes solutions of varying water hardness, which is one of the environmental factors the team added to the sediment containing PCBs.

After initial samples of PCB toxicity are tested, Cabiyo mixes activated carbon into the sediment samples. They will wait a few weeks until the samples are thoroughly mixed before measuring how each environmental factor affects the ability of activated carbon to reduce availability of PCBs in the sediment.

After initial samples of PCB toxicity are tested, Cabiyo mixes activated carbon into the sediment samples. They waited a few weeks until the samples were thoroughly mixed before measuring how each environmental factor affected the ability of activated carbon to reduce availability of PCBs in the sediment.

(From left) Thomas Craig, Bodie Cabiyo and Shannon Daughtrey sing in the lab while preparing environmental factors to test their effect on activated carbon’s ability to capture polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediment, the soil under lakes, rivers and oceans. PCBs are toxic organic chemicals and even a tiny amount in the environment are harmful to living organisms and stay in the environment for a long time. Activated carbon is a new treatment that can reduce the availability of PCBs in the environment.

(From left) Thomas Craig, Bodie Cabiyo and Shannon Daughtrey sing in the lab while preparing environmental factors to test their effect on activated carbon’s ability to capture PCBs in sediment, the soil under lakes, rivers and oceans. Scientists have fun too!

*I will post a link to the videos, where you can learn more about activated carbon and the details of the experiment, once they are available online.

Dance: It’s No Big Deal*

Dance has been a huge part of my life ever since I can remember. Expressing music artistically through my body is both exhilarating and meditative. I dance to smile, I dance to cry, I dance to love.

I was recently in a performance that featured choreography by the Bachelors of Fine Arts dance students at Western Washington University. The beautiful culmination of their hard work exhibited mastered technique, told fascinating stories, and made the audience laugh as well as stare in captivation. I was able to photograph the performance during dress rehearsal as well as backstage. These are some of my favorite performance moments:

*”No Big Deal” was the name of the piece in which I danced.

Vantage: There for the Light

Four of us and a dog crammed into a car on Memorial Day weekend to cross to the other side of Washington State in search of some climbing. We pulled into the campsite, just as the sun sent golden rays across the valley, next to our friends with an American flag flying high from their car. For the next two days we climbed basalt pillars in Vantage, Wash. Some of us climbed for the first time, others put up their first leads, and one of us (Annapurna the dog) learned how to chimney (kind of).

This trip I focused on taking interesting pictures in camp. It’s important to be able to capture beautiful scenes that aren’t about peak action or extreme locations. I also took the opportunity to try harder routes and teach some of my friends how to belay, so I became lost in the moment rather than engrossed in capturing the moments while at the crag. In this age where everything seems to be photographed, I think letting go of the documentation to be in the now can lead to a different enriching experience.

So here’s to the downtime and approaches:

Zach Pike-Urlacher and Ari Blatt make lunch while Annapurna takes a nap, tuckered out from hiking in the hot sun.

Zach Pike-Urlacher and Ari Blatt make lunch while Annapurna takes a nap, tuckered out from hiking in the hot sun.

A climber watches the sunset above the camp at Vantage, Wash.

A climber watches the sunset above the camp at Vantage, Wash.

Annapurna the dog looks down a drop with trepidation while Morgan Foster prompts her to get over her fears and leap down.

Annapurna the dog looks down a drop with trepidation while Morgan Foster prompts her to get over her fears and leap down.

Zach Pike-Urlacher and Ari Blatt check out the sunset at Vantage, Wash.

Zach Pike-Urlacher and Ari Blatt check out the sunset at Vantage, Wash.

Ari Blatt sets up her tent in the dying light.

Ari Blatt sets up her tent in the dying light.

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Unfortunately Fortunate Lessons in Indian Creek

I made a huge mistake. When I made the mistake I was hanging on a fixed rope from the top of “Neat,” a 5.10 crack where I found my rhythm. Tears washed a week’s worth of dirt off my face and I kicked the sandstone cliff, finally feeling pain in my numbed toes, to get out my frustration. But I had to compose myself because Morgan Foster was starting to climb up “Hayutake,” and I wanted to take advantage of my vantage point from above.

This was the day before I left Indian Creek, the crack climbing mecca in Utah where sandstone buttresses are clustered in a desert valley. Approaching the cliffs involves trudging up scree fields of fallen boulders and the road to our campsite out an unmaintained road at Bridger Jack was an off-road adventure. We had spent the past week relishing climbing sustained cracks, the lack of cell service, golden light that swept across the cliffs each morning and evening and sleeping under the stars. I had taken countless photos of the climbing culture and my friends and family dancing up hand-size splits in the rock.  Sunshine peeking through ominous clouds and perfectly positioned boulders where I could get shots of climbers’ faces gave me the chance to work on photographing a sport that I love. I even had filmed a bunch of b-roll to compile a video about the trip.

Jamming your hands  and feet in cracks is a masochistic hobby, but it’s a fun one. I have a fair share of bruises dappling my legs from gear swinging against my body (I bruise easily), and all climbers get gobies (open sores) even if they plaster their hands with athletic tape. I climbed a variety of routes that had me squeezed under chock stones and 120 feet off the ground. Every time I got back to the bottom I was stoked, even if I cursed my way up because I was jamming my calf in an off-width crack or pulling with only the fingertips of one hand.

I was stoked because climbing requires me to focus. I zone in on the problem in front of me; thumb down, twist wrist, scoot feet up, stand, pull up. A bird nest lies nuzzled in the crack where I squeeze my fist and I reach the top of a climb, look at the landscape spread around me, and break into an ecstatic grin. Pushing my physical limits and appreciating the natural world just makes me happy.

This is all while I’m constantly thinking about how I can document the world of climbing. Experience drives my photography and I want to capture moments that make a viewer feel as if they were there. My photographs are my livelihood and my memories. Which brings me back to my mistake.

As I was hanging from that fixed line, I had just pulled my camera out to start shooting. And then, who knows why, I formatted my card. I thought all was lost and I’d never be able to recover my pictures from the past week, but luckily when I got home I was able to download Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery and retrieve the pictures I had accidentally deleted. The shame I felt making that mistake was replaced by the relief of recovering tangible memories and photos that mark multiple learning processes in my career. Needless to say, even though I now have the software, I will never make that mistake again. Maybe it needed to happen so I won’t make a careless mistake when it really matters. What an unfortunately fortunate lesson.

And here’s a few photos from a week of sand and stone in Indian Creek:

Robert Warren climbs "Elephant Man" (5.10-) as a warmup on his arrival for a week-long climbing trip in Indian Creek, Utah on March 21, 2014.

Robert Warren climbs “Elephant Man” (5.10-) as a warmup on his arrival for a week-long climbing trip in Indian Creek, Utah on March 21, 2014.

Morgan Foster organizes his rack before a day of climbing on March 22, 2014. Indian Creek is known for its sustained cracks that can require as many as ten of the same sized pieces of protection.

Morgan Foster organizes his rack before a day of climbing on March 22, 2014. Indian Creek is known for its sustained cracks that can require as many as ten of the same sized pieces of protection.

Notes flutter in the breeze of an oncoming rainstorm on a message board in Indian Creek, Utah. The messages are essential for climbing partners to meet up because there is no cell service in the area.

Notes flutter in the breeze of an oncoming rainstorm on a message board in Indian Creek, Utah. The messages are essential for climbing partners to meet up because there is no cell service in the area.

Morgan Foster tops out on "Crack Attack" (5.11-) in Indian Creek, Utah on March 26, 2014.

Morgan Foster tops out on “Crack Attack” (5.11-) in Indian Creek, Utah on March 26, 2014.

Morgan Foster approaches South Six Shooter on the morning of March 28, 2014. South Six Shooter and North Six Shooter, in the background, are two solitary towers that stand northwest of the cragging buttresses in Indian Creek.

Morgan Foster approaches South Six Shooter on the morning of March 28, 2014. South Six Shooter and North Six Shooter, in the background, are two solitary towers that stand northwest of the cragging buttresses in Indian Creek.

Climbers show off their hands wrapped in athletic tape after a week of climbing. Tape protects their hands from major scrapes while jamming hands in cracks.

Climbers show off their hands wrapped in athletic tape after a week of climbing. Tape protects their hands from major scrapes while jamming hands in cracks.

Robert Warren and Michelle Brugiere, who live in their VW van about a third of the year, camped below the Bridger Jack spires. Vans, camper trucks and a variety of other liveable vehicles are common in Indian Creek campsites.

Robert Warren and Michelle Brugiere, who live in their VW van about a third of the year, camped below the Bridger Jack spires. Vans, camper trucks and a variety of other liveable vehicles are common in Indian Creek campsites.

 

 

Wrestling Regionals

I recently shot the regional high school wrestling tournament at Squalicum Highschool for Skagit Valley Herald. It was the first time I photographed wrestling and my main focus was to capture faces. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Their faces were smashed into the mats, into one another’s heads and rarely facing my direction if they did happen to be looking out. It’s the nature of the sport. But when they did look my way, or I ran to the other side of the mat in time, the looks of desperation and strength that I managed to photograph were intense!

Adam Adkinson from Sedro-Woolley High School and Luke Jordan from Squalicum High School wrestle with cheerleaders watch from the sidelines. High School wrestlers competed in the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash.

Adam Adkinson from Sedro-Woolley High School and Luke Jordan from Squalicum High School wrestle while cheerleaders watch from the sidelines. High School wrestlers competed in the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash. | Skagit Valley Herald

Sedro-Woolley's Gabe Torgerson has the advantage against Anacortes' Ross Atterberry. High School wrestlers competed in the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash.

Sedro-Woolley’s Gabe Torgerson has the advantage against Anacortes’ Ross Atterberry. High School wrestlers competed in the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash. | Skagit Valley Herald

Sedro-Woolley’s Gabe Torgerson and Anacortes' Ross Atterberry face off at the start of their match. High School wrestlers competed in the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash.

Sedro-Woolley’s Gabe Torgerson and Anacortes’ Ross Atterberry face off at the start of their match. High School wrestlers competed in the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash. | Skagit Valley Herald

Sedro-Woolley's Clayton Johnson pins Cedarcrest's Ely Malametz at the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash.

Sedro-Woolley’s Tanner Roppel pins Lakewood’s Jeff Harrison at the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash. | Skagit Valley Herald

Head coach Russ Robinson and volunteer coach Wren Bishop celebrate Luke Jordan's victory in the 120 weight class at the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash.

Head coach Russ Robinson and volunteer coach Wren Bishop celebrate Luke Jordan’s victory in the 120 weight class at the boys 2A regional wrestling tournament on Feb. 15, 2014, at Squalicum High School in Bellingham, Wash. | Skagit Valley Herald

Double Exposure: Dynos

While I was photographing the bouldering competition at Western Washington University, I decided the “dyno” competition would be a perfect chance to experiment with the in-camera multiple exposure setting on my camera. It’s one of the most entertaining parts of the competition because climbers launch themselves up the wall from one hold to another.

I shot climbers focusing on their goal and layered it with the jump to achieve these photos:

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Climbing Competition

I covered the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University a few weeks ago and had fun layering and trying to capture reactions rather than brute force. The lighting was a bit weird since they had colored spotlights on the climbers for the open finals. Sometimes the colors made the people a sickly shade of green, but other times the spotlights provided the perfect off-camera lighting I needed.Here are some of my favorite pictures from the event.

Brittany Goris tapes the routes for finals at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.

Brittany Goris tapes the routes for finals at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.

Liza Dinh, 20, won women's open at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.

Liza Dinh won women’s open at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.

Jimmy Eggiman laughs after he falls off a route during finals at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014. He got second place in men's open at the competition.

Jimmy Eggiman laughs after he falls off a route during finals at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014. He got second place in men’s open at the competition.

Morgan Cabe, 20, pulls through a move in the women's open finals at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.

Morgan Cabe pulls through a move in the women’s open finals at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.

Liza Dinh, 20, swings from the cave at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.

Liza Dinh swings from the cave at the NC3 Bouldering Competition at Western Washington University on Feb. 1, 2014.