Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Village: Spokane's South Hill

The winter of 2008-2009 set a new seasonal snowfall record for Spokane...but only by about a tenth of an inch. Still, it will be remembered as the winter when it seemed like the side streets were never going to be plowed and Mayor Mary Verner famously remarked "It's just snow, people!" Spokane is known for not reelecting mayors...not sure how much that statement played into her carrying on the tradition.

The residential streets each had one set of deep ruts for drivers to negotiate and if you didn''t have a good amount of ground clearance under your vehicle, you ran into trouble. If you managed to make it down your street you still had to deal with the solid, plowed berm where it met an arterial. Every trip out was an adventure, but once you reached an arterial or bus route, you were in the clear.

During one snowy commute I knew I was in trouble when the traffic on both I-90 and the Old Sunset Highway were backed-up, all the way to the top of the hill. I had a coworker with me for the trip home and it took us 3 hours to go 16 miles, and most of that time was lost in the gridlock downtown. The police had closed all the main roads up the hill and everyone was trying to find another way up.

I think that happened on a Friday, which would have given me the weekend to take snow photos. Traditionally, most of our snow falls just before and through Christmas. I have gathered up some of my photos of Christmas lights from different outings in different years. Most came from one cold night on Sumner Avenue and on Rockwood Boulevard. That night I was shooting in RAW/JPEG mode and used the RAW files for colour correction and to pull up the shadow lighting for full "Christmas Village" effect.

FYI: RAW is an uncompressed file format. It can contain image data that can be recovered, unlike JPEGs, in which the file size is reduced by eliminating some of the image data. For example, a dark, underexposed area in a RAW image can usually be brought up, but in a JPEG, the data may no longer be there. HDR is a technique where multiple images are taken at different exposure settings, or "stacked," and then they are blended in the computer for the desired effect. If HDR is done "right," you end up with a striking image, with even exposure across light and dark, but most of the time it's overdone, giving shots an over-the-top look...like some of the following RAW conversions!

 
Rockwood Bakery, E 17th Avenue.


The load on the car was from storms-to-date, and not one storm. Garfield Road.


Garfield Road


E. 25th Avenue.


I needed a photo for my Christmas card and went out on the hunt. It was Sunday afternoon so I still had some light and everybody was home, so houses were lit up inside as well. People were moving around in the house so I set up the tripod, composed the shot, and took shots while looking in a different direction. This is where people like to say to me "You should show the photos to the homeowner, maybe he or she might want to buy them." OK, let's try this: "Umm, hello. I just took a photo of your house; would you like to pay me for my work?" This is probably the only JPEG in this group, so the shadows are murky in comparison to the RAW shots. Cannon Hill Park.


Snow, snow, and more snow, on Highland Boulevard.


This next four were taken on Sumner Avenue. White Balance was set to Incandescent so the lights would show up as white instead of yellow, and that gave the sky the Cobalt blue look. The shots look HDR, but they are just heavily-tweaked single RAW images.




There was a fire at this house recently and it has since been repaired.


For comparison, this is how the shot looked, straight out of the camera, underexposed to keep the lights from getting too bright.


The same RAW shot, after making a Colour Temperature correction and pulling up the shadow details. Plume from the chimney was not added. Rockwood Boulevard.


The front of the same house. Looks like Santa's house, eh? Rockwood Boulevard.


Hey, where's the snow? A RAW conversion exercise, seeing what I could recover from the dark areas. Grapetree, East Pinecrest Road.


The Cathedral of St John. It's also an amazing music venue. Grand Boulevard.


This is about what conditions look like right now, after most of the snow from our last storm has melted. Grapetree, East Pinecrest Road.

While I'm here I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season, no matter how you choose to spend your days. Get to know people and strenghten your bond with those you already know. It helps move us toward becoming happier, healthier, contributing members of society and wouldn't that be a blessing to everyone?

We made it past 12/21/12, so I guess we still need to all get along...until someone finds another ancient calendar!



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