Travels from Portland to San Francisco, Part 1

For a few years, we’ve been talking about doing a drive along the Pacific Coast from Portland to San Francisco. My wife has spent a fair amount of time in Portland and I’ve spent a lot of time in San Francisco, but we’d never connected the dots in between, taking the time to see the rugged Oregon and Northern California coastline nor the towering redwood trees that the region is famous for.

We finally decided to take the plunge once the world had forgotten about the pandemic, so we booked a flight, rented a car, booked some hotel rooms, confirmed our dogsitter’s availability and packed our bags.

As you probably know, other than doing software stuff, photography is my second life. So this would be a combination vacation/photo-adventure, so we made sure to plan a route that would maximize photo opportunities. I’ll be sharing photos from this journey for a long time on my daily photo site, 75CentralPhotography, so be sure to follow me there (I’d keep an eye on the Oregon and California categories).

However, this site isn’t geared towards sharing my photography, but more about random, ephemeral things, so I thought I’d share our route, as recorded by my GPS logger (along with a few shots I shot on my iPhone for context). I log my travels when out taking photos to ensure that I can later add a location to every photo I take and you can read more about this process at my rarely-updated photography blog here.

Day 1

Our first day entailed first flying from our home airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, to Portland International Airport. So, naturally, I fired up my GPS logger and was surprised that, for the most part, I was able to get steady GPS signals.

It’s always amazing to me, every time I fly out west and have a window seat, to see just how unsettled the western half (or even two-thirds) of the United States is. Lots of area to get lost or start a cult or militia or some other crazy group, or just see some amazing scenery.

The outskirts of Salt Lake City—one of the few signs of civilization on the air route between Dallas and Portland.

Once we arrived in Portland, our agenda was pretty simple for the rest of the day: meet my wife’s brother for lunch at McMenamins on the Columbia across the river in Vancouver, Washington, visit Powell’s City of Books (purported to be the world’s largest independent bookstore) and see the interesting architecture of the St. Johns Bridge at Cathedral Park.

St. Johns Bridge at Cathedral Park

Day 2

We got up early the next morning and headed out. Our first stop was Multnomah Falls, east of Portland on the south bank of the Columbia River. The falls are 620 feet tall and are well-worth the visit:

Multnomah Falls

We then reversed course and went back through Portland on our way to Cannon Beach, most-famous for being the location where the final part of The Goonies was filmed. It’s also famous for the 235-foot-tall sea stack known as Haystack Rock:

After leaving Cannon Beach, we drove down the coast a ways before heading inland a bit to the Tillamook Creamery for a cheese snack, then head back out to the coast to Cape Meares for a quick stop.

Cape Meares

Other stops included Pacific City Beach:

Pacific City Beach

Siletz Bay:

Siletz Bay

Boiler Bay:

Boiler Bay

Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint:

Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint

Before arriving at that evening’s destination, Otter Rock. We stayed at the Inn at Otter Crest, which would’ve afforded us a great view of the sunset over the Pacific had it not been overcast at sunset, but otherwise offered great views of the rugged coast as well as a tasty pizza and local beers for dinner.

Day 3

Our third day’s journey found us doubling-back a bit to visit Depoe Bay and the coast north of there before heading back south to our day’s destination, Coos Bay.

Depoe Bay Harbor

Depoe Bay is known for its 6-acre harbor that is purported to be the world’s smallest navigable harbor. Interesting fact about this harbor is that it was was damaged by a tsunami resulting from the same 2011 earthquake in Japan that caused the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.

Coastline north of Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay Scenic Park
Rocky Creek Bridge

 

The Inn at Otter Crest—our previous night’s stay—as seen from the nearby Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint

One of the more-scenic stops for the day was the Devils Punch Bowl—a large rock formation along the coast near Otter Rock:

Devils Punch Bowl

After leaving the Devils Punch Bowl, we continued south towards Newport, stopping for a bit in Beverly Beach:

Beverly Beach

Reaching the outskirts, of Newport, we stopped at Yaquina Head to see the lighthouse and surrounding coast.

Yaquina Head Light
Cobble Beach
Cobble Beach

We then drove the rest of the way into Newport, where we stopped to view the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Yaquina Bay Bridge

We then stopped on the Newport Bayfront for lunch at the Rogue Brewery and the view the local residents:

Sea lions in Newport Bay

After lunch and a couple of pints, we got back on the road to our next stop, Cape Perpetua:

Cape Perpetua
Cape Perpetua

A quick detour then took us to Sealion Beach, which lived up to its name with an uncomfortably large number of sealions lying about:

Too many sealions!
Sealion Beach and Heceta Head Lighthouse

We finished our day by checking into the very-quirky Itty Bitty Inn in North Bend, which features themed rooms and some awesome murals:

Itty Bitty Inn murals

Followed by a couple of pints and dinner at the 7 Devils Brewing taproom in Coos Bay

Mmmm…beer

Day 4

Day 4 of our adventure would find us wending our way down the coast from Coos Bay to Eureka, California.

Our first stop was in Port Orford, where we took in Battle Rock and the nearby scenery:

Battle Rock
Port Orford Lookout
Port Orford Lookout
The Oregon Coast south of Port Orford

Continuing south, we stopped at Gold Beach:

Gold Beach

Where we encountered this bit of Lovecraftian nightmare fuel:

Turns out, it’s a type of kelp

And then on to Sisters Rock:

Sisters Rock (I don’t have a sister, so I can’t speak to the fact as to whether they rock or not)

We then stopped at Meyers Creek Beach for a view of the sea stacks there:

Meyers Creek Beach

And then onto Ariya’s Beach at Gold Beach, Oregon:

Ariya’s Beach

The next stop, Natural Bridges, Oregon, offered an amazing, dramatic view:

Natural Bridges

Finally, we crossed the border into California and got our first good look at the giant Redwood trees we’d been yearning to see:

After exploring the Redwoods for a bit, we rolled into Eureka for the night, stopping for a bit to view the channel that leads from the Pacific to Humboldt Bay and it’s accompanying jetty:

That concludes the first part of our epic drive from Portland to San Francisco. Next time, we’ll cover the conclusion of our journey, driving from Eureka to San Francisco.

Vintage Playboy Ads #1

People kid themselves when they say “I only read Playboy for the articles”, so I’m going to modify that a bit and say “I only read vintage Playboys for the ads”. 

I recently came across a trove of vintage issues of Playboys and its been fun to flip through them and appreciate the ridiculousness of the ads more than anything else (though I must admit that the “boomer humor” comics occasionally elicit a groan from me, when they’re not making me cringe).

So, today, I present to you, some weird/ridiculous/strange/whatever ads from the August 1979 issue of Playboy.

A full 42 years before Apple introduced Spatial Audio, Bose was giving it to us via this fake-wood-grained box.

From back in the day when Canadian Mist (which I admit to occasionally drinking) came in a glass bottle, and not the plastic bottles that it comes in now.

I’m sorry, but I’m not drinking something called “Dry Sack”. And to be juvenile, I feel like this might be related to the two different jock itch ads in the issue:

The reverend should’ve stuck with VW. Also, I can’t imagine that the good reverend would be pleased to know he appeared in Playboy.

“Row on row of precision gauges”…”husky” wheels…”12,000-mile/12-month warranty”. The AMX had it all!

If you drink too much Canadian Mist or…um…”Dry Sack”, you too could be an olive-dropper!

Who is this Bruce Jenner you speak of?

Hope you like film grain.

When you’re finished shooting your grainy photos on your Minolta, take your film down to the Fotomat in the parking lot at the Woolworths! In a week or so, return to pick up your prints and prepare to be disappointed.

How I Added Maps to 75CentralPhotography.Com

For years, I’ve geo-tagged my photos on my photography site, 75CentralPhotography. In fact, I one wrote about my geotagging workflow over there…the workflow is a bit outdated, but still works and is still relevant.

Recently, I was thinking about ways to enhance the browsing/user experience of the site, when I hit upon the idea of including a map with each photo showing where the photos was taken, since I already had all this GPS metadata embedded in each photo.

The first step was figuring out how to extract the GPS data from the photo’s embedded metadata. Luckily, the site is built on WordPress and WordPress is built using PHP. And PHP has a built-in function for extracting EXIF and IPTC metadata from a given image, exif_read_data(), so I just needed to pass in an image path and it would return the full image metadata, then parse that to extract the longitude and latitude of where the photo is geotagged, which I could then use to place the photo’s location on a map.

The code I used to get the GPS coordinates
 

 
Explained
  1. First, I needed to get the attachment ID for the photo. Since I only post one photo for each blog post, I knew I could use the handy catch_that_image() function that returns the id of the first image in a post when called from within a post:
  2. However, since catch_that_image() only returns the attachment ID and exif_read_data() needs a relative path to the image file, I needed to get the path to the file from the attachment ID. Luckily, WordPress offers the  get_attached_file() function to do just that:
  3. Now that we have the relative path, we can finally pass that to the exif_read_data() PHP function to get the EXIF data back as arrays.
  4. Finally, we can extract the latitude and longitude from the EXIF data using  a custom getGPS() function:

Now that we’ve successfully extracted the embedded GPS coordinate’s from the photo’s EXIF data, we can use the leaflet.js Javascript library to display it.

Before we can display the map, we do three things:

  1. Check to make sure that the photo actually has GPS data (as extracted in the previous step)
  2. Add these coordinates to custom post metadata in WordPress
  3. Check to see if a custom zoom level has been defined for a particular image in custom post metadata, else set the default zoom level of the map.
    1. We do this as for some photos, there may not be any contextual information available for a map to display, such as a photo taken in the middle of the ocean, which would result in a blank map.
The code that does this is some simple PHP:

Now that we have that, we can embed the leaflet.js map:

Explained
  1. First, we use an HTML <div> tag to set the display <div> for the map:
      <div id=”mapid” ></div>
  2. Next, we define the map and set the view and zoom level:
    var mymap = L.map(‘mapid’, {scrollWheelZoom: false}).setView([<?php echo $lat ?>, <?php echo $lon ?>], <?php echo $zoom[0] ?>);
  3. Add the zoom controls to the map:
    L.control.scale({position: ‘topright’}).addTo(mymap);
  4. Add the map tiles from a custom map in MapBox, as well as the custom icon or pin we created to pinpoint the photo’s location:
    L.tileLayer(‘https://api.mapbox.com/styles/v1/75central/{id}/tiles/{z}/{x}/{y}?access_token=SECRET_TOKEN’, {
    attribution: ‘Map data &copy; <a href=”https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright”>OpenStreetMap</a> contributors, Imagery © <a href=”https://www.mapbox.com/”>Mapbox</a>. Some photo locations may be <a href=”https://www.75centralphotography.com/location-information/”>inaccurate or obfuscated</a>.’,
    maxZoom: 20,
    id: ‘SECRET_ID’,
    tileSize: 512,
    zoomOffset: -1,
    accessToken: ‘SECRET_TOKEN’
    }).addTo(mymap);
    var LeafIcon = L.Icon.extend({
    options: {
    iconSize: [50, 50],
    iconAnchor: [22, 50],
    popupAnchor: [-3, -76]
    }
    });
    var greenIcon = new LeafIcon({iconUrl: ‘https://www.75centralphotography.com/assets/camera.png’});
    window.dispatchEvent(new Event(‘resize’));
  5. And, finally, add the defined marker/pin to the map:
    var marker = L.marker([<?php echo $lat ?>, <?php echo $lon ?>], {icon: greenIcon}).addTo(mymap);

And, voila, we have a map with the photo’s location on each photo on 75CentralPhotography:

Graffiti Tunnelvision

The Lost Art of Dallas’ Good-Latimer Tunnel

I was recently looking through some old photos in my Lightroom archive and came across a set of photos I took 15 years ago about a lost piece of Dallas-area culture.

The Good-Latimer Tunnel was built in 1930 for Texas State Highway 559 and the Texas & Pacific Railroad. In the 1960s, vandals began to tag its walls with graffiti. By the late 1970s, the City of Dallas had grown tired of cleaning the tunnel, so they began to organize several days each year wherein the street would be blocked off so that artists could paint the tunnel walls. Unfortunately, this came to an end in 2007 when Dallas Area Rapid Transit tore down the tunnel to build a new rail line.

A few weeks before demolition began, I made a trip to Deep Ellum to document some of this artwork. While some of it has been previously published on my website, 75CentralPhotography, most has never seen the light of day until now, seven years later.

Accidental Abstraction

I was recently playing around with Photoshop’s Content-Aware fill, trying to replace a drab Chicago sky with something more interesting on a phot of the 1929 Carbide & Carbon Building (now in the process of being renovated to the Pendry Chicago Hotel) and accidentally made this piece of abstract architectural art:

EXIFViewer, Redux

Last year, I wrote about a small photo EXIF data viewer I’d built. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really given the project much thought since then, especially since it was written to run on Windows and late last year, I switched back to MacOS. 

Recently, however, i’ve been toying with idea of porting it to MacOS, especially since Microsoft’s Xamarin lets you write .NET code and compile it with MacOS as the target OS. However, to do so, I needed to rewrite for the Windows platform.

The first problem is that the original was written in Visual Basic.NET, which is great for rapidly-building applications, but is not a modern language and is on its way to being deprecated by Microsoft.

The second problem, and this is somewhat-embarassing considering that I’m a software development manager and solutions architect at my day job, but the application was poorly-built (I threw it together in a couple of hours). No modularity. No proper design patterns. Logic intermingled with UI. Lots of global variables. 

So, to port to MacOS via Xamarin, I’d need to rewrite the code in C# (since VB.NET isn’t supported) and I’d need to make it more modular, so that the processing/backend was abstracted away from the user interface. This way, I could use the codebase that extracts the EXIF data in my Mac version without modification and will only need to build the UI elements for MacOS. 

At any rate, I’ve started making my first stabs at writing the Mac version, but until then, the Windows version is available on GitHub here. You can download the installer here.

I welcome feedback, contributions and pull requests!

But Why?

For the last couple of years, I’ve been undertaking the arduous task of digitizing the thousands of slides and negatives that I inherited from my father. While they are mostly treasured family memories and reminders of great days gone by, there are the occasional photos that pop up where I say to myself “Why did you waste a shot on this?”

History lesson time for the kids: Before smartphones and digital cameras, we had to use film to take photos (the hipster kids will already know this). So, you only got, typically, 24 or 36 photos per roll of film and you had to pay and wait to actually see them. So, unlike today where you’re really only limited in how many photos you can take by your device’s memory or battery, back then, you were limit by cost (initial purchase of film and, once you’ve used it, developing and printing expenses) and by how much film you could carry—a bunch of film canisters could take up a lot of space!

That’s why when I’ve been going through these photos that my father took, I wonder what compelled him to take some of these photos. 

So, for your enjoyment(?), here are a few that perplex me. 

My “best guess” is that the first few are somehow related to my father’s work in the East Texas oilfields as these appear to be oil field service companies, though why he felt he needed photos of them is a secret that died with him. 

The last, however, is perfectly obvious as to why he took it:

They misspelled their own company name on their own truck!

This is how I know that I’m my father’s son…I love taking photos of misspellings on signs!

Synchronicity in Film

First, I want to apologize to my loyal readers for the unexpected break in posting over the last month. Unfortunately, my day job as a software architect meant that I was put on a project that consumed most of my free time. Free time where I would’ve normally been scanning ephemera and writing blog posts. 

The lack of free time also meant that I didn’t have time to watch as many films as I am accustomed to. However, now that things have started to slow down, I’ve started consuming more feature-length medias (media? mediums?).

I was recently reminded of the Disney Channel…something I admit that I hadn’t really thought of in ages. Specifically, that it had launched in 1983 and we’d subscribed not too long after that when it was available in our town.

My memories of Disney Channel content in those early days consists mostly of shows that were aimed at kids younger than me, such as Welcome to Pooh Corner, which, despite its title, isn’t a show about perfectly position a cat box. I also have distinct memories of repeatedly watching The Black Hole and Tron

One other film that they seemed to run a lot but that held no interest to my eight-year-old mind was Never Cry Wolf, based on the book of the same name about Farley Mowat spending time in far north Canada observing wolves and whether or not they were the cause of declining caribou populations. 

Upon remembering this film, I decided that I should watch it to see if it was as disinteresting to me in my mid-Forties as it was when I was eight. 

The weirdness for me came a couple of minutes in when I had the weirdest sense of déjà vu…a scene of the main character and narrator sitting outside a train station in the fictional (maybe?) town of Nuutsak (I’m assuming the spelling here, as it sounds like he’s saying “nutsack” but I have to assume that it’s an Inuit word rather than someone actually naming their town after scrotal slang) seemed strangely-familiar to me.

I was certain I’d seen that setting before. Not in another film, but in real-life. Considering it for a moment, it came clear in my mind…this was clearly filmed in the small Yukon town of Carcross…which I visited several years back while exploring the Klondike.

In fact, I have a photo from near that same vantage point:

To confirm my certainty, I enhanced and cropped the screencap above, and it’s clearly the same railroad bridge:

Things changed a bit between when the movie was filmed in 1982-ish and when I visited in 2013, but it’s interesting that the buildings in the background are still there, just maybe a bit-more-ramshackled.

Finding stuff like this is always a surprising treat when watching a movie or TV show. One thing my wife and I enjoy doing when there’s nothing else on TV late on Friday or Saturday nights is to find a channel running old Cheaters reruns. Since the show was primarily filmed in Dallas and we’ve lived in the Dallas area most of our lives, we love trying to figure out the locations. 

 

Greetings from Memorial Stadium

A while back, I shared that I’d found a souvenir set of postcards from late 1930s Austin, Texas, amongst my grandparents’ cache o’ stuff.

One of the items in there was a postcard of the University of Texas’ Memorial Stadium:

Which is a far cry from how it looks today:

(but it still has arches!)

Built in 1924 with a capacity of 27,000, Memorial Stadium was dedicated to the nearly 200,000 Texans who fought in the Great War (as it was called then, since WWII and the forthcoming WWIII hadn’t happened yet). Over the years, it was steadily expanded to today’s 100,000 fan capacity. And, in 1996, was renamed after legendary Longhorn coach Darrell K. Royal to “Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium”, which was confusing if you didn’t know the origin of the name as Royal was still very much alive at the time of the rename, but it sounded like it was a memorial to him.

It’s an impressive venue, for sure, but my favorite on the UT campus is the Frank Erwin Center, mainly because of its bizarre architecture (bizarchitecture?):

Built in 1977 in a modern style I like to call “Loganism” after the set design and locations in the classic sci-fi film Logan’s Run, I’ve always loved the way this edifice has loomed over I-35 as one drives through Austin. 

Unfortunately, this fine building is being replaced with a new, less-bizarre structure, the Moody Center:

Light and airy, the Moody Center might be more-attractive to visitors, but it lacks the imposing presence of the Erwin Center. And I think that’s a loss. (My inability to visualize structures as people-friendly or approachable is probably part of the reason I dropped out of the architecture program in college in favor of computer science/engineering).

 

 

Breaking News

A weirdly-defining memory of my childhood was how much I hated watching the news. Every night, my parents would turn on the news and I’d hate it. It wasn’t entertaining to five-year-old me. It had no relevance…I was too young to understand that whatever was happening outside my immediate surroundings affected others and could, potentially, affect me. It was boring.

Ronald Reagan shot? Wall-to-wall coverage on the three channels we got (cable hadn’t come to our town yet) and no cartoons. (Even worse was Sunday mornings, when the local affiliates ran church services). 

Even when there wasn’t breaking news, they’d sneak it in to the middle of your watching with a “news break”. The three networks (no Fox yet…just NBC, ABC and  CBS) would, a couple of times a night, forego commercial time with quick newscasts before getting you back to watching Lou Grant or Alice.

A while back, I uploaded a CBS Newsbreak from February 26, 1984 sourced from an old VHS tape to my Youtube channel:


 

A quick breakdown:

This newsbreak is presented by Charles Osgood, who only just retired in 2016 after a very long career at CBS, starting in 1971. 

Story 1

In 1982, a multinational force entered Beirut for peacekeeping to oversee the withdrawal of the PLO-backed forces from Lebanon as part of a cease-fire agreement between the PLO and Israel. After 17 months of mixed results that included a terrorist bombing of a barracks that killed 241 US Marines and 58 French paratroopers, the MNF withdrew in late February.

Story 2

More war: The Iran-Iraq War lasted from 1980-88 and resulted in over 1,000,000 dead. The US supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and was complicit in his use of chemical weapons, and we all know how he repaid our help…

Story 3

Used to be that merchants had to charge the same to customers paying with cash or credit cards, the S. 2335 (98th): Credit Card Protection Act was supposed to extend these protections if passed. Spoiler alert: it didn’t pass. And to this day, you are still occasionally charged a “convenience fee” for using your credit card or still see gas stations that charge higher prices for card use:

Ad break:

This spot supposes that Heineken is the best beer. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.

Story 4:

The New Hampshire primary is the first election primary of the presidential election cycle and, thus, has mostly-unwarranted importance in the eyes of the American media and electorate. In 1984, the Democratic front-runner, Walter “Fritz” Mondale was confident he’d win the primary and chose to campaign  in neighboring states instead. Spoiler alert: he didn’t. Gary Hart, now mostly-remembered for destroying his 1988 presidential campaign by having an affair (remember when politicians were held to a moral standard?) won. But we got this photo out of it, so yay?

Mondale did go on to win the nomination, however. Then spectacularly lost in a landslide to incumbent Ronald Reagan (who’d recovered from his assassination attempt by this time).

Story 5:

I can’t find anything definitive as to when the networks phased out newsbreaks. I can’t recall seeing one in the last 15 years, but it’s probably been much longer. Now that we have always-on internet access in our pockets and 24/7 news channels, these are a relic of the past. And could you imagine a network today passing up a couple of minutes of ad revenue to inform their viewers of world events? Hell no.