Art

Friday, October 22, 2021

North Coast Otters Art Initiative Raises $300,000

Posted By on Fri, Oct 22, 2021 at 10:35 AM

Live In-Person Silent Auction, North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative, Clarke Plaza, Eureka, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (“Johner the Logger Otter” by Claudia Lima in the foreground). - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Live In-Person Silent Auction, North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative, Clarke Plaza, Eureka, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (“Johner the Logger Otter” by Claudia Lima in the foreground).
The North Coast Otter Art initiative, which saw more than 100 otter sculptures scattered throughout five North Coast counties, has raised $300,000 that will support continued otter research and student internships at Humboldt State University.

The initiative led by wildlife professor Jeff Black began in 2019 with the hopes of launching the initiative in 2020, however, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, plans were changed and the otter sculpture scavenger hunt was postponed.

The goal of the initiative was to celebrate professor Black's 20 years of “citizen science” river otter records study, where residents who spot otters catalog when and where they were seen, and raise awareness about wildlife conservation and celebrate the arts.

This summer residents in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties were able to find otters scattered throughout businesses, however, more than 300 "otter spotters" participated in the raffle and submitted entry forms for a chance to win one of the 32 raffle prizes donated by local businesses.

“Hundreds of people, including grandkids with grandparents, families, couples and, well, everyone, seemed to fall in love with these otters,” Black said. “The merger of art and science was an absolute joy throughout the North Coast.”


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Thursday, September 9, 2021

North Coast Otter Sculpture Auction and Preview

Posted By on Thu, Sep 9, 2021 at 12:01 PM

Did you get a chance to hunt for any of the 108 North Coast Otter Art Initiative otter sculptures throughout Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties this summer? If not, no sweat! All of the otter sculptures will be on preview this Friday from noon to 7 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in Eureka.
MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson

Thirty-two otter sculptures that were a part of the massive five-county scavenger hunt will be up for auction on Saturday, Sept. 11, from noon to 3 p.m. at the Clarke Historical Museum, followed by an online auction of the remaining 70-plus otters the following week.

The North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative was created to celebrate life, water and otters, support local businesses and raise funds for student projects.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Time to Start Looking for Otter Sculptures!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2021 at 3:25 PM

Michelle Kunst, program and project organizer at the Land Trust, joined Jeff Black to look over Maureen McGarry's otter location. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Michelle Kunst, program and project organizer at the Land Trust, joined Jeff Black to look over Maureen McGarry's otter location.
The long-awaited North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative's treasure hunt of 108 otter sculptures painted by local artists spread throughout five North Coast counties has finally begun and will continue through September.

The initiative's creator and Humboldt State University wildlife professor Jeff Black says he's really excited about finally getting the otter sculptures out.

"I've been getting phone calls from people in the community telling me that they're excited about getting to look for [the sculptures]," Black told the Journal. "I'm very excited about giving people something to look forward to."

All otter sculptures are up for bidding through an online silent auction open throughout the summer, and the highest bid sculptures will be sold in a live auction in September. The funds will then be used to fund HSU otter research and student internships with community-based watershed projects.

The North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative was created to celebrate life, water, and otters, support local businesses and raise funds for student projects.

You can download the otter sculpture guidebook (or artist location key) here, or simply head to the nearest shop, gallery, school or other North Coast locations to pick up a copy.

“The initiative arose from a desire to share what we are learning about wild river otters with the community,” Black said. “River otters are at the top of the food chain in coastal watersheds, rivers, and wetlands, and just like us, river otters need clean water and fresh food each day.”

Black says that "Bunty," the sculpture that inspired him to create the initiative, will make "special appearances" to promote the treasure hunt. 
Jeff Black and Bunty the Otter (Art) - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Jeff Black and Bunty the Otter (Art)

Happy hunting!

100+ Otter Sculptures on Display in Public Arts Initiative to Raise Awareness about California's River Otters

The much-anticipated North Coast Otters have arrived! The North Coast Otters public art festival, treasure hunt, and online auction begin today.

North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative is a community “treasure hunt” tour of more than 100 sculptures painted by local artists, with an aim to celebrate life, water, and otters, support local businesses, and raise funds for student projects. Visit the North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative website for more information.

North Coast Otters merges art and science, encouraging imagination and observation from our region’s rich creative community.

The project commissioned 108 unique pieces of Otter Art now displayed at shops, galleries, schools, and other North Coast locations. Participating artists decorated three-foot-tall otter sculptures for an educational art trail throughout Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity, and Siskiyou counties.

Use the maps and guidebooks to locate the otters. Learn all about the charismatic critter, which shares our wild rivers, coastlines, and wetlands. A Junior Otter Spotters "activity booklet" will be available to inspire the young and young at heart.

Otter Art sculptures are available for bidding in a silent auction online throughout the summer, and the highest bid sculptures will be sold in a live auction in September. Proceeds will go to HSU otter research and student internships with community-based watershed projects.

A guidebook—available at each host location and downloadable on the website—shows locations of participating shops, restaurants, and visitor centers. This public arts initiative provides an accessible opportunity to explore our connection with the natural world.

“The initiative arose from a desire to share what we are learning about wild river otters with the community,” says Jeff Black, HSU Wildlife professor and project lead. “River otters are at the top of the food chain in coastal watersheds, rivers, and wetlands, and just like us, river otters need clean water and fresh food each day.”

The project encourages community members to participate in the ongoing citizen science river otter records study by consistently reporting when and where wild river otters are observed throughout the North Coast region.

Since 1999, HSU students have been collecting otter records from citizen volunteers as a means of tracking the quality of North Coast habitats. River otters, seen at all times of day in our area, have captured the attention of thousands.

“Some of these wild river otters travel far and wide to find enough food each and every day,” Black says. “River otter numbers are beginning to recover thanks to efforts to restore and clean up habitats, but they need our commitment to ensure their presence in the wild.”

Send details of wild otter observations to otters@humboldt.edu or call (707) 826-3439.


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Thursday, June 10, 2021

North Coast Night Lights: Eclipse of the Super Flower Moon

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2021 at 1:00 AM

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The full moon of May, called the flower moon, was a real doozy: it was a super moon, an eclipse, and a blood moon — the first Super Blood Flower Moon into which I can ever remember having tuned. So how does it come by all of those monikers?

The moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical, a squished circle, which means that sometimes the moon is closer to Earth than at other times. When the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach, called perigee, the full moon is called a super moon, and naturally, being closer, it is a slightly larger full moon than otherwise.

Blood Moon is a term referring to the deep reddish-orange that the moon becomes during a total lunar eclipse, which we saw on May 26 this year. A total lunar eclipse such as this occurs when the moon passes directly through the densest part of the shadow that the sun casts behind Earth. The plane in which the moon orbits Earth is offset from the plane about which the Earth orbits the sun, so it isn’t often that Earth, the moon, and sun line up in this way. When the three celestial bodies line up with the moon behind Earth, the moon passes into Earth’s shadow and is eclipsed.

The Super Blood Flower Moon sets over Kneeland Road and the hills of Humboldt County, California. Finding it cloudy on the coast at 2:40 a.m., I knew I’d find a good view at this spot. I’d forgotten about that tower, though, much to my chagrin at the time. But it has grown on me since, and I find it adds to the otherworldliness here. The light streaks and flare on the left were from a car approaching along the curves. I stopped the shutter just before it topped that rise, 4:20 on May 26, 2021. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Super Blood Flower Moon sets over Kneeland Road and the hills of Humboldt County, California. Finding it cloudy on the coast at 2:40 a.m., I knew I’d find a good view at this spot. I’d forgotten about that tower, though, much to my chagrin at the time. But it has grown on me since, and I find it adds to the otherworldliness here. The light streaks and flare on the left were from a car approaching along the curves. I stopped the shutter just before it topped that rise, 4:20 on May 26, 2021.

Do you think a photograph is always going to show reality? Or that it has to? Since I began teaching Digital Photography at College of the Redwoods, a beginning class, I’ve noticed a common conception that photographs always show “reality,” and that they capture instants in time. It’s understandable, since this is how we typically use our cameras — to capture and freeze what we saw. The typical photograph does often capture an instant in time and space pretty much the way we saw it, or remember it. It can even become the way we remember it, whether it was exactly how we saw it or not. This makes an interesting topic for discussion in class.

Cameras see the world differently from the way you or I see it, and sometimes what they capture is either beyond what we can see with our own eyes, or else it falls far short of what we see with our own eyes. I call those phenomena the camera’s superpowers and limitations. To have powers beyond ours, while also having limits greater than ours, means that it is possible to capture photographs that do not closely resemble what we saw with our flesh and blood eyes. So which was reality: what we saw, or what the camera saw? I tend to say either or both, for our realities are a matter of perception, and seeing things in new ways is useful.

This image represents both the camera’s amazing superpowers, and its severe limitations. The camera’s superpower here is its ability to see so much better into the low light of night than my naked eye can. It was still the dark of night for me, just enough light cast by the moon to throw a shadow behind me as I watched its face darken and redden. The Milky Way was visible, too, but as always it was fairly faint to the eye, and color on the landscape was almost nonexistent, though I could discern some yellow in the stripe.

The Super Blood Flower Moon rests in the clutches Scorpius as it sinks in the southwest over the hills of Humboldt County, California. With the cloud cover obscuring the celestial landmarks, I am uncertain of the precise orientation of Scorpius’ tail, but Antares and the stars around the Moon are unmistakable. May 26, 2021. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Super Blood Flower Moon rests in the clutches Scorpius as it sinks in the southwest over the hills of Humboldt County, California. With the cloud cover obscuring the celestial landmarks, I am uncertain of the precise orientation of Scorpius’ tail, but Antares and the stars around the Moon are unmistakable. May 26, 2021.

Our eyes see the world moment-by-moment, and staring into the night for seconds at a time does not make the night any brighter. But unlike our eyes, the camera’s patient eye in this case gathered light for a full thirty seconds, building up the image lightness and detail with each passing second. The camera’s more patient eye was able to capture the road, landscape, and night sky with far more clarity, detail and color than I could. The sensor’s ISO can be turned way up, too, allowing it to capture even more detail in near darkness. These are superpowers of the camera that can bring us views of the night that we will never see with our naked eyes. It’s still reality.

But what about the moon? It didn’t fare as well in the exposure; it ran into a severe limitation of the camera and became over exposed, which resulted in it not looking the way I saw it at all. To my eye that morning as I photographed beside the road, the eclipsed moon glowed a beautiful amber-red, bright enough to easily see color and detail in it. But to the camera, which was set to capture the much darker landscape and night sky, the lighter moon became a featureless bright white spot in the sky. The camera was not able to capture both the relatively bright eclipsed moon, the dark landscape, and faint Milky Way all at once because the difference in brightness values between the darkest and lightest elements was simply too great. Its superpower of seeing into the darkness did not allow it to see both the dark landscape and bright moon at once, and the moon became too bright.

I wanted to bring home the full eclipse experience that I’d had, with the moon appearing the way I had seen it, and the Milky Way accompanying it with the landscape visible beneath it. To do so, I made a second exposure in which the moon looked normal. But though the moon looked good in this one, now the sky and landscape were nearly completely black, much darker than even my naked eye had seen it. My solution was to use the moon from that image on top of the too-bright moon in the photo of the landscape and sky, with the result that now my image of the Super Flower Blood Moon eclipse of May 26 more closely resembles what I saw that early morning.

I had to work at it to bring you the eclipse as I’d seen it. A single snapshot couldn’t do it. Some might say I should have left the sky black and had a normal-looking moon surrounded by blackness. Some might say I should have left the moon a bright white spot with the Milky Way and landscape as you see here. Neither of those is what I saw, though. I chose to share this.

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or purchase a print, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx and on Twitter @davidwilson_mfx . David teaches Art 35 Digital Photography at College of the Redwoods.

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Sunday, May 30, 2021

North Coast Night Lights: iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode vs Nikon D750, D850

Posted By on Sun, May 30, 2021 at 12:29 PM

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Before I purchased an iPhone 12 Pro, I was curious about the “night mode” that Apple had introduced in the previous model — how good was it? How would it stack up against my Nikons for the kind of nighttime photography I love so well? The reviews were very favorable, and many included amazing nighttime photographs shot using night mode. Could professional-level nighttime photography be built into such a small and useful device as an iPhone? I wanted to know. So I found out for myself.

This review is an entirely subjective comparison between the Apple iPhone 12 Pro night mode and the Nikon D750 and D850 DSLR's*. I wanted to find out how night mode performed the way that I would like to use it, which right now is nighttime landscape photography. Bear in mind that the iPhone 12 Pro is the current “Pro” model as of this writing (May of 2021), while the Nikon D750 was introduced seven years ago in 2014 and the Nikon D850 was introduced in 2017.

Night mode is amazingly capable and fun, but it also has some serious limitations. In some situations, it is remarkably good, but in the extreme low light of a moonlit landscape it will lose a lot of detail and produce a lot of digital noise.

The iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode did very well on Arcata’s well-lit H Street at the Arcata Minor Theatre. With enough light from the city’s lights and passing cars, there was very little problem with noise (the grainy look). Compared to the Nikons, though, detail was lost in the highlights and shadows — note how the theatre’s name is blown out on the marquee. In all examples here, the size of the detail images reflect the higher resolutions of the Nikon D750 and D850, respectively. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode did very well on Arcata’s well-lit H Street at the Arcata Minor Theatre. With enough light from the city’s lights and passing cars, there was very little problem with noise (the grainy look). Compared to the Nikons, though, detail was lost in the highlights and shadows — note how the theatre’s name is blown out on the marquee. In all examples here, the size of the detail images reflect the higher resolutions of the Nikon D750 and D850, respectively.

Using the iPhone’s built-in Camera app, night mode becomes available when the iPhone’s light meter detects a low light situation. In night mode, the camera will take a series of shots of the scene using different exposure settings, and then intelligently create the best image that it can from the series (an example of “computational photography”). The photographer can choose the duration of the night mode process, but one cannot adjust the actual shutter speeds involved.

The 68 percent waxing gibbous moon and the lights from Trinidad behind me were insufficient illumination for all but the brightest surfaces of the lighthouse for the iPhone 12 Pro Night mode. Compared to the Nikons, the image suffers when there is too little light. It looks ok on the phone, where it is small, and maybe it would be fine as a small image on social media, but it’s far too noisy (the grainy look) for me to print it as an enlargement. It simply needs more light; no doubt it would look better with a larger moon, but I doubt even full moonlight is enough. I look forward to trying this with a full moon. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The 68 percent waxing gibbous moon and the lights from Trinidad behind me were insufficient illumination for all but the brightest surfaces of the lighthouse for the iPhone 12 Pro Night mode. Compared to the Nikons, the image suffers when there is too little light. It looks ok on the phone, where it is small, and maybe it would be fine as a small image on social media, but it’s far too noisy (the grainy look) for me to print it as an enlargement. It simply needs more light; no doubt it would look better with a larger moon, but I doubt even full moonlight is enough. I look forward to trying this with a full moon.
Longer durations allow objects that are in motion — like the cars and clouds shown — to blur as they move through the frame, but one has no control over the actual aperture, ISO and shutter speeds involved in any of the shots that make up the final night mode image; these will be automatically set by the camera.

Night mode shines best outside at night in fairly well-lit environments like city streets or similar areas such as the Woodley Island Marina examples included. It is also best if you can mount the iPhone on a stable tripod, but it will perform admirably even hand-held in those situations if you’re steady, as my 5-second and 10-second hand-held examples attest.

An 84 percent waxing moon and the lights of Eureka’s Woodley Island Marina provided enough light for the iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode to make a good image. In fact, it looks great at first glance. But zooming in (see the Details), one sees that the highlights are blown out again. In editing, I was unable to bring up the shadows very much without exposing lots of noise. As expected, the Nikons both did really well with the shadows, highlights, and noise, partly because I could control the actual shutter speed, and partly because I could select a low ISO (lower ISO yields less noisy images). The iPhone’s Camera app doesn’t allow me to adjust those parameters. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • An 84 percent waxing moon and the lights of Eureka’s Woodley Island Marina provided enough light for the iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode to make a good image. In fact, it looks great at first glance. But zooming in (see the Details), one sees that the highlights are blown out again. In editing, I was unable to bring up the shadows very much without exposing lots of noise. As expected, the Nikons both did really well with the shadows, highlights, and noise, partly because I could control the actual shutter speed, and partly because I could select a low ISO (lower ISO yields less noisy images). The iPhone’s Camera app doesn’t allow me to adjust those parameters.

Night mode falls utterly flat for my purposes when photographing landscapes, even under an 84 percent waxing gibbous moon. It leaves most of the shadows dreadfully  underexposed and full of noise. One can eliminate the noise in Adobe Lightroom, but it requires a very heavy setting that wipes out far too much detail, leaving the images looking unnaturally smooth, like plastic. Indeed, in other reviews I have seen online, the landscape photos have just that look. In my Trinidad Lighthouse image, I deliberately left most of the noise in to preserve more image detail. Editing is always a matter of personal taste.

What one considers “good enough” is both subjective and dependent on the intended use. I would not want to depend on the iPhone 12 Pro’s night mode to produce a nighttime image that I intended to print very large. There is simply too much noise when it is underexposed. Under ideal conditions, it can capture images that would make decent enlargements, but the real world often deals less than ideal conditions.

The iPhone 12 Pro whupped the pants off of my Nikons when it came to hand-holding it for long shutter speeds. Under a nearby streetlight and the 84% waxing gibbous moon, it performed admirably with me hand-holding the phone for both 5-second and 10-second exposures. I attribute this to a combination of the Night mode’s computational photography, in which it combines details from many exposures into the result, and to the built-in optical image stabilization of the iPhone’s camera. The Nikon, having no image stabilization nor any computational photography abilities, relied entirely on my steady hand, which was not at all steady for a 5-second exposure, let alone the 10 second one. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The iPhone 12 Pro whupped the pants off of my Nikons when it came to hand-holding it for long shutter speeds. Under a nearby streetlight and the 84% waxing gibbous moon, it performed admirably with me hand-holding the phone for both 5-second and 10-second exposures. I attribute this to a combination of the Night mode’s computational photography, in which it combines details from many exposures into the result, and to the built-in optical image stabilization of the iPhone’s camera. The Nikon, having no image stabilization nor any computational photography abilities, relied entirely on my steady hand, which was not at all steady for a 5-second exposure, let alone the 10 second one.

Is night mode a “professional” feature? I will say this: if you’re a professional and you find yourself out at night with something to photograph, and all you have is your iPhone 12 Pro, then it’s professional. A professional photographer wants to create the best images possible, and if one didn’t have a DSLR or modern mirrorless camera handy, then night mode could get one by in many cases.

In brighter nighttime situations such as scenes with city lights, night mode does amazingly well — extremely well for a phone camera. And if you need to hand-hold your camera for a several-second exposure, night mode on the iPhone 12 Pro will produce an image with very little motion blur — while my Nikons yielded extremely blurry images in the same situation. That could very well save professionals who find themselves without their real camera or a tripod.

But for all other low light occasions, if you also have your DSLR, a tripod, and the time, the DSLR will give you better results; the Nikons produced much larger, crisper, richer, and less noisy images. Except when it came to hand-holding the camera for multiple-second exposures, where the iPhone 12 Pro’s night mode did a phenomenally better job, there was really no contest.

The relative sizes of the images produced by the three cameras in this comparison have a bearing on how much the images can be enlarged as prints. Generally, higher resolution images produce better large prints — but size is not everything; even with a large enough image, if it is blurry or noisy it will produce a low quality enlargement. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The relative sizes of the images produced by the three cameras in this comparison have a bearing on how much the images can be enlarged as prints. Generally, higher resolution images produce better large prints — but size is not everything; even with a large enough image, if it is blurry or noisy it will produce a low quality enlargement.

Notes: All images for this review were shot in RAW format (except for the iPhone angel photos; those were shot in Apple’s regular .HEIC format (I forgot to change it to RAW). Because editing is important to my process, all images have been edited with the attempt to show them at their best — just as I would for any other purpose — with particular attention to maintaining detail in highlights and shadows.

Untested: Night mode also works with the front-facing camera for selfies; it works in Portrait mode; and it works with the iPhone’s time-lapse video features.

* “DSLR” is short for “digital single lens reflex”; you may recall that 35mm cameras were SLRs (with the exception of point and shoot cameras). I used DSLRs in this comparison because that is what I have, but having seen many results from modern mirrorless cameras, I am sure most current models would produce results similar to my DSLRs; the differences between the mirrorless cameras and my cameras would be minor compared to the difference between my cameras and the iPhone 12 Pro’s night mode.

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or purchase a print, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx and on Twitter @davidwilson_mfx . David teaches Art 35 Digital Photography at College of the Redwoods.

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Otters Away

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2021 at 1:45 PM

Amanita Mollier's otter is prepped for installation at the Trinidad Bay Eatery and Gallery by Ben Sparks and professor Jeff Black. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Amanita Mollier's otter is prepped for installation at the Trinidad Bay Eatery and Gallery by Ben Sparks and professor Jeff Black.
Five North Coast Otter Public Art Initiative sculptures were installed at various businesses in Trinidad yesterday on World Otter Day.

The otter sculptures will be a part of a 108 otter sculpture scavenger hunt that will span five different counties, including Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, Del Norte and Trinity counties. The scavenger hunt start date has yet to be announced but is suspected to be soon.

See Mark Larson's photos of yesterday's otter deliveries below. 
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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Happy World Otter Day!

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2021 at 3:19 PM

KELLIE BROWN
  • Kellie Brown
Happy World Otter Day! The Sequoia Park Zoo is celebrating by spending time with their otters Toby, Etu and Takoda today, while the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to display its North Coast Otter Art Initiative otter sculpture.

The North Coast Otters Art Initiative (including a fundraiser and scavenger hunt of 100 plus otter sculptures) was set to begin last year but much like every other event, the COVID-19 pandemic postponed it. But the initiative's creator Jeff Black told the Journal that the project will commence this summer, he's just waiting on approval by Humboldt State University for an official set date.

Fortuna Chamber of Commerce shared a sneak peek of their otter "Poppy Rose McOtter" that will live at the River Lodge in Fortuna until the fundraiser auction, where the majority of the otter sculptures will be sold to raise money for internships for HSU wildlife students and to support watershed projects by nonprofit organizations, like the Mad River Alliance.


"There are 13 different species of otter worldwide, from the Asian small-clawed otters to the Giant otters of the Amazon," reads a tweet from the Sequoia Park Zoo.
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Monday, November 9, 2020

Students Share Their Shots of Pandemic Life

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2020 at 2:22 PM

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The Humboldt County Office of Education announced the winners of the
Pandemic Photojournalism Contest, which saw more than 40 local students participate.

The winners are:
  • College: Tehila Horowitz
  • Grades 9-12: Ari Alter
  • Grades 6-8: Avery Packer
  • Grades 3-5: Amaya Teraoka
  • Grades Preschool-2: Indiana Jensen
  • Special award from Ellis Art: Stella Saba
View all of the entries by visiting here and the winners in the slideshow below.
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Friday, October 30, 2020

County to Begin Reviewing Applications for Outdoor Live Performances

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 3:56 PM

Health Officer Teresa Frankovich
  • Health Officer Teresa Frankovich
The state of California has released limited guidance that could allow live performances to resume in a limited capacity outdoors on the North Coast in the near future.

The interim rules — which the state is expected to followed up with more thorough guidance soon — allow two types of live performances in counties in the “minimal” risk tier, like Humboldt. The first essentially just dovetails with the social gathering guidelines the state released earlier this month, which allow no more than three households to gather for physically distanced or masked outdoor get-togethers. The state has now clarified that if those groups want to play music, do something theatrical or otherwise perform together or for each other, that’s allowed, so long as no more than three households are involved.


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Thursday, October 22, 2020

NCJ Archives: The Haunting of Carson Mansion

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2020 at 11:50 AM

The Carson Mansion beneath the Snow Moon of February, 2020. Eureka, Humboldt County, California. - PHOTO BY DAVID WILSON
  • Photo by David Wilson
  • The Carson Mansion beneath the Snow Moon of February, 2020. Eureka, Humboldt County, California.

Editor's Note: With Halloween just around the corner, here's a blast from the past story (October of 2010) about Eureka's landmark Carson Mansion, which is not only one of the most photographed Victorian homes in the United States, but also a muse of sorts, in a creepy sort of way.

As the haunted holiday approaches and our thoughts turn to creepy wonders, things that go bump in the night and pillow cases full of candy corn harvested by the kids, one might be startled to know that a real scary celebrity resides in our midst, hidden in plain sight in Eureka on a hill overlooking Humboldt Bay, except when enshrouded by the fogs that plague our little Victorian seaport.

The Carson Mansion, one of the most photographed Victorian homes, is known for its unsurpassed redwood woodwork and extraordinary architecture, but few realize it has served as a template for haunted house art throughout the world, inspiring website design, video animations, posters, paintings, book covers and even amusement parks.

Do a Google image search for the phrase "haunted house," for example, and repeated among the top results is an eerie creation by Daniele Montella, one of Italy's top graphic artists. This image in particular, created in 2004, has gained a life of its own on the Internet, having been used for everything from website home pages to haunted house posters to news articles.

"The Haunted House" by Italian graphic artist Daniele Montella. - COURTESY OF DANIELE MONTELLA/DAN-KA.COM/COPYRIGHT 2004
  • Courtesy of Daniele Montella/Dan-Ka.com/Copyright 2004
  • "The Haunted House" by Italian graphic artist Daniele Montella.

“Each year, during Halloween, I get requests for use of the image, even from sites of paranormal research, or even by groups claiming to be ghostbusters,” Montella said in an email interview.

Thanks to Montella’s digital expertise, the house is a jumble of horrors: its decaying exterior is flanked by gnarly trees and crumbling tombstones. But the menacing nighttime shadows cannot hide one simple fact: The building is essentially the Carson Mansion.

“I think the Carson Mansion is by definition a haunted house. It is a wooden house, with a structure shaped like a castle, complete with a tower, patio, all of which lend themselves to the theme of the haunted house,” he said.

Other digital artists have fallen under the spell of the Carson. Arlen Nielson, a graphic artist from Vancouver, Canada, used it as the basis of a popular computer desktop background image with a haunted house theme. Daniel Norbury, a 3D animator from Nottingham, England, selected the Carson house as the location of a murder mystery for a video game demo. Bryan Camilleri, a spray paint artist living on Gozo, an island near Malta in the Mediterranean, is selling Haunted Mansion paintings, with the historic Eureka house as the unmistakable subject.

How did the Carson Mansion travel to such distant canvases and computer screens? There are several reasons. First, there are countless images of it that can be easily accessed on the Internet.

"It's well known that the Carson Mansion is the most photographed Victorian in the United States," says Ray Hillman, Eureka's premier historic tour guide. "Its images have been broadcast through the media, so that it can easily be an inspiration for those looking for something to make a haunted house image."

Norbury confirms that assessment. "I looked at various existing spooky looking houses and found the Carson Mansion, which had many different photographs taken of it at different angles," which was essential to making an animation.

Many such images find their way to stock photo websites, which graphic artists frequent. Nielsen said he found a Carson Mansion image from one such Internet stockpile. Indeed, there are plenty. Go to fotosearch.com or worldofstock.com, for example. Type in "haunted house." One soon finds oneself at the virtual corner of Second and M streets in Old Town.

Second, the house is such a Victorian oddity that it lends itself to imaginative fancies, including scary ones. "I don't think the Newsoms [the architects who designed the house] realized what it was going to be until it was built. They threw everything at it, including the kitchen sink," said Jill Macdonald, a Eureka historic architecture expert.

Despite its riot of styles and features, there is one structure on the house crucial to its elevated status in the realm of eerie abodes — its imposing 100-foot-high tower, which rules the landscape on the east side of the Eureka waterfront.

"The Victorian flamboyance of grand central tower is rather dominating, just by its sheer mass," Hillman said.

Macdonald agreed. "The top cupola is very Alfred Hitchcock-looking. It's a defining characteristic of the house."

Speaking of the great suspensefilmmaker, Hitchcock is associated, albeit tangentially, with the Carson Mansion's scary legacy, revealing that 

Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful - RANDOM HOUSE, 1961
  • Random House, 1961
  • Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful

it predates the Internet by decades. In 1961, Random House published "Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful: Nine Cool Stories About Haunted Houses and Ghosts for Boys and Girls." The book cover, illustrated by the late Fred Banbury, sports the looming face of Alfred Hitchcock alongside a cartoon-ized Victorian home. The inspiration is clear to Hillman.

"Oh, the Carson Mansion is there," he said. "They've increased the size of one of the gables, but look at the sunburst panel at the cap of the tower, and that lunette [half circle feature] on the tower. Whoever drew that book cover definitely had images of our mansion."

Steeped in California history, Hillman recalls other ways in which the Carson Mansion has influenced fantastical architecture in the Golden State. At Disneyland in Anaheim, for example, the train station tower was inspired by the Carson Mansion cupola, he said. The former has circular clocks in the place of the semi-circular lunettes. Otherwise, they look strikingly similar.

"The architect that built the train station visited the Carson Mansion before construction of Disneyland," Hillman said.

The Carson Mansion has impressed imaginative creators in the past and present. What about the future? Well, speaking of Disneyland, another Mickey Mouse theme park is slated to open a major attraction in 2013, inspired by, according to many ... you guessed it.

Last year at the Disney Fan Club Expo in Anaheim, Disneyland Hong Kong created a buzz among amusement park enthusiasts when it unveiled sketches for Mystic Point. The main attraction will whisk visitors back to the year 1908, into a Victorian home on a remote hilltop known as Mystic Manor. A mischievous monkey opens an enchanted music box and all sorts of shadowy shenanigans ensue.

MiceChat.com, the leading Internet clearinghouse for news related to Disney theme parks, came alive with posts on its forum. A leading question: What inspired the design for the Mystic Manor exterior, a mostly Victorian horror with a strangely added onion dome? A handful of candidates were forwarded, such as Morey Mansion in Redlands, Calif., which has such a feature. But overall, most agreed that the primary muse was the green, many-gabled wonder built for the family of William and Sarah Carson in 1885.

"It struck me that the Carson Mansion in Eureka, which I suggested would be a great building to house an attraction, looks a lot like Mystic Manor," one MiceChat.com member named CaliforniaAdventurer said.

Hillman agreed. "Look at the porch, the spacing of the columns, the general configuration, I'd say no doubt. And the tower, they just doodled with it a little."

Certainly visual artists can transform the Carson Mansion into super-scary houses, but the question remains whether the house is inherently creepy or whether said creepiness needs to be brought about through creative manipulation.

"I may be too close to it, but I don't think it's scary," said Macdonald, who has studied the building extensively and regularly visits the house, which since 1950 has been owned and operated by the Ingomar Club, a private civic group. There may be paranormal rumors, Macdonald said, but they are whimsical and fun, not frightening.

Hillman agrees, to a point. "In the daytime, it has an uplifting look, a fanciful look," he said. "But at night, when the shadows are deep, and our thoughts are more in the dark world, you can start spinning tales."

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