Don Davis

On Snow And Cameras, Or, Health Care Gets A Day Off

Filed By Don Davis | November 09, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Snoqualmie Pass, Snow, Washington State

Whether you are deliriously happy, incredibly sad, or still uncertain about how you feel about what has emerged from the House this weekend, it's probably safe to say that one thing everyone is... is sick of the whole thing.

Of course, we're far from done--but just to give us all a break, I'm going to abruptly change the subject.

I have a Flip Video camera--which I am still getting used to--and last night we ran up the hill to Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, ostensibly to test the camera's low-light capabilities...but really so we could drive around in all the fresh new snow.

There's plenty of time to get back to the political wars in a bit; but for right now let's head up the mountain, see some cool stuff, talk about what the camera can--and can't--do, and, just for fun, we'll answer the age-old Seattle question: "how long does it take to find three places that sell espresso at the top of a mountain pass in the middle of nowhere?"

Snoqualmie Pass is Seattle's closest ski area (just take I-90 about 40 miles east, and when the road quits going up, you're there). The Pass and the surrounding mountains are high enough that you can get a lot of snow on the ground--in fact, in an average winter 33 feet of snow will accumulate; in 1955-56 you could have stuck a stick 68 feet long in the snow...and the ground would have still been a foot out of reach.

When you have that kind of snow to deal with, you have to make certain adaptations, which is how we get to our first video. What you'll see is a fire hydrant shed, which is basically a little A-frame cabin for a fire hydrant:

(This was lit by car headlamps.)

There is a "Travelers' Rest" building that's been there since 1938--but you won't see it in the next video, because it's behind me. What I want you to pay attention to, instead, is how the camera reacts as it pans, and also the how the camera responds to the varying light levels in the clip:

The Travelers' Rest building now houses restrooms and (naturally) an espresso shop. Here's the view through one of their windows:

You can see that if the image is well-lit, and the camera is nice and still, the results are surprisingly good...for a camera that fits in a pocket.

The Alpental Lodge is located a hundred feet or so above the Pass; this sodium-lit video shows snow falling in the Lodge's parking lot:

There is a mountain gorge with a genuine babbling brook in front, and a covered wooden bridge gets you over to the Lodge from the parking lot. This next video shows how the camera reacts to low light combined with movement. It's also a great example of how well the camera records sound, which it does pretty well. (As the video progresses, the light changes from ambient light to fluorescent to sodium lamps as the bridge ends.)

We are still a little ways from Alpental's opening, but this is an "almost picture postcard perfect" image of the back of the Lodge--and again, you'll note that if enough light is present, the results can be great:

People live up here, as you might imagine, but again, when you have this much snow, you have to adapt. In order to get in and out of the house in a place where the snow will probably pile up well past the second story windows before it's all done, you need a plan. The two videos that follow show the "snow sheds" that people build just to get from the front door to the car.

In about four to six weeks, when serious snow is on the ground, these sheds will be completely buried, creating exit tunnels that are somewhat reminiscent of what you might see attached to an igloo.


We're almost to the end, and it's time to answer the question we posed at the beginning of the story: exactly how long does it take to find three places that sell espresso at the top of a mountain pass in the middle of nowhere?

Who picked the one minute, fifteen seconds square on the grid? If it was you...you're the winner.

The final video of the story shows just what kind of a snow shovel works best when clearing the kind of snow that accumulates at the Pass. This video was taken at the front doors of the third espresso location you saw from the previous video.

See the yellow "caution" tape around the windows? Snow will be piled up at least that deep in a few weeks; they will have to cut holes in the snow banks to allow people to walk around the side of the building to get to that side of the parking lot.

Normally this would be the part of the story where I would wrap everything up, and to do that today I'm going to offer a few thoughts about the little Flip Video camera.

I bought this camera because it is so small that it can easily be carried in a shirt pocket, because with this camera it's so quick to start shooting, and because it was capable of recording in 720p, which is a high-def format.

I knew, going in, that it would have a number of limitations, and we have seen those on display in the videos here. I did not buy this camera as a substitute for a Red Camera--but I did buy it as a camera that I could use for field interviews that could be put on the Web, and, as some of the video on display here testifies, the camera is fully capable of doing that and more.

So there you go: we saw some très cool snow video, you, perhaps, learned a few things about adaptation, and we managed to get in a camera review besides.

And the best part: for at least a few minutes--no health care!


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Don,
I'm not a tech-gay, but I do want to thank you for bringing back some great winter memories of Snoqualmie with your footage.
Unbelievably, right now in Butte, Montana there is no snow.
Weird.
G

actually, this is the most non-tech camera in the history of the world.

to make it work, you push the power button on, then push the big red button, and you're recording.

there are no fancy modes or settings at all--and it's just a tiny bit bigger than a cell phone, which means i can carry it in my pocket at all times.

it also has no tape or dvds or memory cards to mess with. you connect it with the usb connection and dump the video to your computer, and that's it.

keep that camera handy, and i'd bet you end up with some excellent roadside nature footage

I like that part of the state. Thanks for sharing.

you're more than welcome--and we'll revisit this in a few weeks, so you can see what 20 feet or so of snow does to change the look of the place.