Monthly Archives: March 2012


In the summer of 2011, I spent over a month on Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East. For the most part, I was working as as a fisheries sustainability expert in a fishing town of Ozernovsky, population 2,000. The Ozernaya River, born at Kurilskoe Lake about 40 kilometers inland, and emptying into the Sea of Okhotsk just past the town, has the largest sockeye salmon run in Asia, akin to the one in Bristol Bay, Alaska. It supports an in-river beach seine and coastal set trap net commercial fishery Over the next month, I will be posting photos of life in Ozernovsky and the sockeye salmon commercial fishery. I will also have posts about other places I’ve visited along the way, such as Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the central city in Kamchatka and of St. Petersburg, on the other side of Russia.

A view of a volcano taken during a helicopter flight from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Ozernovsky.

Olympic Peninsula, Part II

Continued from Olympic Peninsula – an aerial view. Part I.

We were stranded on an abandoned airstrip 20 miles from the nearest town. Even at this remote location we had cell phone reception. Jane, our pilot, called her husband. They had a second plane, a tiny Piper, with a front seat for the pilot and a back seat for two people, with one seat belt to share between the passengers. It was an adorable but slow plane, with an average speed of 40 mph over land. It was going to take 3 or 4 hours before her husband would come here from Portland to pick us up.

The day was sunny and warm, and the three of us had time to explore the area. An abandoned plane support facility, with a plush doll hanging in the middle from a metal hook, had surely seen better days. It was surprising unvandalized, with intact glass windows and no garbage. A wooden one-story NOAA meteorological facility nearby had an older lady solely working there, launching weather ballons, like clockwork, every 12 hours.

The little Piper came to our rescue around 6 pm, just as the sun was touching the horizon. As all four of us couldn’t fit in it, Jane found a hotel in the nearest town that agreed to send out a car to pick her up for the night. Her husband would return the next day to get her. The Piper had glass windows from floor to ceiling on both sides, making for a spectacular view, but no heat. The bit of warm air coming from the engine into the cockpit didn’t reach past the pilot, and we weren’t dressed for cold weather, expecting to be back in Portland by late afternoon. Flying several miles high with the sun down and no heat, we were very cold the whole way back. We didn’t make it back until around 11 pm, but still happy not to spend the night under the wing of the broken down plane on the abandoned airplane.

Olympic Peninsula – an aerial view. Part I.

As I’ve mentioned in the last post, I made a couple of flights last fall over the Olympic Peninsula, Washington to photograph some of the key rivers the Wild Salmon Center has been working on. It was a gray, foggy morning, which cleared by mid-day, when the sun was high up, making the scenery below rather contrasty. What did stand out on that trip was our mis-adventure. There were three of us in the little 4-person Cessna – my colleague, Amber, who was keeping track of where we needed to go and what river I was photographing, our pilot, Jane, and I.

We took off from an airfield near Portland, Oregon and once over the peninsula, started flying zig-zag along the predetermined rivers, from the coast up to the Olympic Mountains, where these rivers begin. The mountains, covered in snow, were gorgeous, but the turns were tight and we had to be careful. By about 2 pm, my memory cards were full, and we decided to land on a small, abandoned airstrip near Forks, Washington, to have lunch and offload the photos. Jane’s map warned to watch for cows and deer before landing. It was nice and warm on the ground, and the food and hot tea disappeared quickly. As we were taxing for take off, to continue the shoot, Jane was doing the pre-flight check. Unexpectedly, our engine died. Jane turned it back on and it died again. The third time was no different. There was something wrong with the engine, which meant we had to cancel the flight. The only problem was we were good 20 miles from the nearest town and a day’s worth of driving from Portland, and without a car.

Stay tuned. Next week’s post will have the happy ending.

Logging the Olympic Peninsula

In October of 2011, I made a couple of trips in a small fixed-wing plane over the Olympic Peninsula, Washington to photograph key rivers and watersheds for the Wild Salmon Center. The Wild Salmon Center is a Portland, Oregon based international NGO that works around the Pacific Rim to preserve healthy salmon habitats and to conserve wild salmon stocks. The flights were an adventure, complete with a breakdown on an abandoned air strip near Forks, Washington, the site of the Twilight series. In my next post, I will tell the tale of our adventure and post photos of the rivers from that shoot.

While flying above twisted rivers and forested mountains, I spotted several mountain-top logging operations. The Olympic Peninsula contains a number of state and national parks as well as major salmon rivers of the Pacific Northwest. It was one of the last unexplored and uncharted territories of the Lower 48 states, but became a major logging site in the 20th Century. Although the days of wide-spread intense clear-cutting are gone, shaved mountaintops and valleys are cut deep into the landscape.

With new technological innovations, the remnant logging is taking place on mountain tops, which were previously inaccessible to this activity. I was surprised at the efficiency and speed of trees being fallen. As I was flying past a logging camp, I saw the arm of a tractor grabbing a tree and carefully laying the tree trunk down, then reaching for the next tree and laying it  down within a minute.

Yet I still use paper napkins.