Monthly Archives: September 2008

Summer Still Lingers on the Lake

Please visit the Lake Union Virtual Museum at http://www.lakeunionhistory.orgGirl looking for turtles in Lake Union Park

Girl looking for turtles in Lake Union Park

My fear that last weekend might be my last chance to get summery images of Lake Union was certainly unfounded.  When I saw the sun blazing away this weekend, I knew there would be no rest for me.  I packed up my video equipment and hauled it around the lake on my bike, both Saturday and Sunday, shooting all sorts of people frolicking on the water.

The image of the girl above is a still from the HD video I shot on Saturday, after some tweaking in Photoshop.  Not bad for a video frame!  I’ve actually stopped putting my still camera in my pack when I go down to the lake.  It was a nuisance pulling out a separate camera and tripod and setting them up.  I always missed the great shots with the still camera anyhow, whereas I caught them in video.  Since website images  don’t really require high resolution, I think I’ll try using HD video for a lot of my stills.

I overcame another kind of fear on Sunday afternoon when I inched my way out onto the Aurora Bridge to see what I could see from up there (I’m terrified of heights).  I kept thinking, “Okay, I’ve shot enough; I’m going back,” but curiosity led me farther and farther out onto the bridge.  At the far end of it – just before sunset – I was rewarded by the view in the image below.

Lake Union & Mt. Ranier from the Aurora Bridge

Lake Union & Mt. Ranier from the Aurora Bridge



Yesterday the MCDM program had a barbecue to kick off Fall Quarter, and I had every intention of going.  When I finished work at my weekend restaurant job, however, I noticed that the sun was shining and I sniffed a last little whiff of summer in the air.  I immediately thought “kites!”  I realized that when I shot video in Gasworks Park in August I was so fixated on the lake that I neglected to get shots of all the kites flying around me.  Since part of my Lake Union website will be devoted to the park, kites could be an important part of the story.

So I packed up my camcorder and tripod and rode my bike furiously from Capitol Hill to Gasworks Park, peering anxiously across the lake for fluttering shapes against the sky.  Surely, I thought, someone must be taking advantage of possibly the last sunny Sunday of the year day to fly a kite.

I was not disappointed.  I found three young ladies struggling to get a pink butterfly kite aloft and I got some pretty good shots.  I also shot footage of people throwing frisbees, walking dogs, biking and staring out over the lake.  A couple of parents approached me to ask why I was aiming my camera at their kids.  Happily, they accepted my explanation and did not accuse me of being a stalker.  One man even told his son to roll down the hill one more time so I could get it on tape.  One of the kite ladies asked me for the URL for my website.  Since my website doesn’t exist yet, I gave her the address of this weblog.  I should probably make up special business cards for this project so I can hand them out.

I ran into an interesting problem with the image of the girl with the kite at the top of this post.  When I exported it as a still image out of Final Cut Pro, it had a lot of motion blur because I didn’t use a fast shutter speed when I shot it.  I tried de-interlacing, which helped a bit, but lowered the resolution noticeably.   This puzzled me, because the video image on my computer monitor looked quite sharp, even when paused.   So, as a last resort, I took a screen shot of the paused video and pulled it into Photoshop for tweaking.  This resulted in a much better final product than the exported video still.  This seems like an odd way of doing things, but it worked!

Off We Go!

Please visit the Lake Union Virtual Museum at:
Graftiti on a wall at Gasworks Park mocks photo copyright giant

Graffiti on a wall at Gasworks Park mocks media giant

The photo at left shows a bit of Seattle wit I found stenciled on a wall at Gasworks Park on the shore of Lake Union.  Given the ubiquity of Getty Images in the media world, it wouldn’t be surprising if the company figured out a way to copyright this classic vantage point on the Seattle skyline. I took this picture to celebrate the beginning of my thesis project at the University of Washington, where I am enrolled in the Master of Communication in Digital Media (MCDM) program.   My project is a “virtual museum” on the history of Lake Union.

On Thursday I went to the MCDM office hoping to get official approval for this project.  I caught Hanson Hosein, the Program Director, hurrying between meetings.  Having read my proposal, he said simply and with gusto, “Go ahead and register!”  So, I went to the registrar and plunked down my tuition, thereby committing myself to this big endeavor and thinking, “Off we go!”

When I started thinking about this project more than a year ago, I had no idea what its subject would be.  All I knew was that I wanted to create a multimedia website on some aspect of Seattle history, using text, images, audio archives and short video documentaries to simulate the experience of visiting a history museum.

A friend suggested that a great subject for my “museum” would be the jazz clubs that flourished along Jackson Street from the 1920s to the 1960s, when Seattle was known among jazz musicians as one of the hottest music scenes in the country.  So I read Paul de Barros’ book Jackson Street After Hours from cover to cover, then met with him in a coffee shop near his home in Queen Anne.  He pointed out that nearly everyone he profiled in his book is now deceased and suggested that “the time for documentaries on Jackson Street has passed.”  He proposed that I focus instead on the current jazz scene in Seattle’s high schools.

Paul’s idea was tempting, but would have meant departing from my idea of emulating a history museum.  I also realized that the copyright issues of any website about music could be a nightmare.  So I turned to my old friend Dick Wagner, founder of the Center for Wooden Boats (CWB): an open air museum at the south end of Lake Union.  “If you could create a website about any aspect of local history,” I asked Dick, “what would it be?”  Dick pulled out a manuscript for a book he is writing about the history of Lake Union, titled Legends of the Lake, offering to let me use it as the basis for my project.  The book is part of an ongoing program, funded by the City of Seattle, to promote cultural and recreational activities around the lake. Dick felt that my website project could potentially complement this program.

Dick Wagner at the Center for Wooden Boats

Dick Wagner at the Center for Wooden Boats

This meeting with Dick, in late Spring of 2008, was the true beginning of my current project.  After getting nods of approval from CWB’s directors and from Kathy Gill and Hanson Hosein, my chosen advisers at MCDM, I sat down again with Dick Wagner in August to hammer out a plan for the first phase of the project.

Realizing that Lake Union is a big lake with a big story, I decided to tackle only a few aspects of it for my Independent Study project at MCDM during Fall Quarter of 2008.  By December I plan to complete a prototype for my “museum” consisting of four to five Web pages.  I will submit these, along with a scholarly paper, detailing the theory, background and methodology of my project, as my deliverables to MCDM.

So, I asked Dick to point me towards four chapters in his book that might translate into interesting Web pages with multimedia content.  He suggested his chapters on Gasworks Park, houseboats, boat-building and the Native American presence on the lake.  I agreed enthusiastically with these suggestions and asked him to supply me with names and contact information for people who are experts on each of these subjects.

As summer drew to a close, I realized that I had better get some stills photos and stock video footage of the lake in its prime season, before the Autumn rains start falling.  Originally I was planning to shoot all my video in Standard Definition, but my first visit to Vimeo’s HD channel made me realize that HD is rapidly  becoming the way to go for video on the Web.  So I quickly purchased an HD camcorder and began bicycling around the lake with it (along with my fluid head tripod and a still camera in a 40 pound pack), shooting anything that seemed interesting.  The picture at the top of this blog, of the young family frolicking at Gasworks Park, is a still from the HD video I shot in late August.

My next steps will be to schedule video interviews on each of the four topics Dick and I selected.  Another very important step will be to establish contact with the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) to get advice from someone there and arrange for access to archival photos.  I will report on my progress in these areas in my next blog post.