My Life Stories
Website Organization, TL;DR
I have subpages that describe my future plans for this website and my content; photo gear, content management and workflow; photo blog and favorite themes; education; and career. I'm updating my subpages that describe my current politics and perspective on social media.
The remaining narrative on this page takes ~6 minutes to read, not including the time to read and/or view the content via the external links I’ve embedded. I've chunked the first half of my remaining text below into life-stage sections of varying lengths.
I've framed my narrative by photography, so I reference the film and digital cameras I used at different points in time. As an introvert, I've found photography is one way for me to communicate what I "see" and think.
Because of a limitation in the product I'm using for this website, I can't add a table of contents with internal links to the section headers (in red font) on the page. Consequently, you'll need to skim or scroll through.
My photos on Flickr that I link to here typically include descriptive text, for additional context. Some of my photos on Flickr are restricted to friends and/or family-only viewing. All the photos on my website are public.
Please forgive any disjointed text or incorrect grammar you see. I’m not a professional writer.
When I make significant changes to the pages that include narrative, I update the 'Last updated' at the bottom of each page.
Parents, Digitizing Project
I’m going to start my narrative by recognizing my mom and dad [photo]. My dad grew up in Montana and my mom grew up in Washington. They moved to the Territory of Alaska [photo] in the 1940s, when they were teenagers.
My mom and dad were salt of the earth people. They were honest, caring, hard-working, excellent parents, and outstanding community role models. My sisters and I miss both of them very much.
Before my mom became ill in 2010, I promised her I would continue her family genealogy and archival work. My first step was to collect, organize, and digitize her [photos], films, and videos to share with family members. I completed these activities in October 2021.
In 2022, I plan to digitize my parents' birth announcements, handwritten (love) letters, articles of appreciation, drawings, and so forth.
After I’m done digitizing my parents' artifacts, I plan to store the physical items properly. I'm using Margo Note's Creating Family Archives book for overall guidance in my work. It’s a great resource.
1955-1980: Alaska Grown, EAHS, UAF, TAPS, USA Road Trip
Another step in my family genealogy project is to document some of my life stories to share with my children and grandchildren [photo]. This narrative is my start. It will be ongoing, as time permits and I discover more to share.
I was born in Anchorage [photo] and spent my youth and years as a young adult in Alaska. Alaska was and will always be a special place to me. I enjoy returning to visit family and friends.
After the Great Alaska (Good Friday) Earthquake [photo] in 1964, our family moved from our house in Valdez to temporary housing in Copper Center.
In December 1964, after the cabin [photo] we were living in near the Copper Center Lodge flooded and froze during a stretch of -60 below zero [photo], our family moved into a Red Cross trailer in Glennallen. Several months later, we moved into a new double-wide trailer [photo] in Copper Center, where we remained until we moved to Anchorage in 1970.
My mom described our family’s experience during the 1964 earthquake in the book The Days the Trees Bent to the Ground. She mentions the Copper Center flood at the end of the chapter.
When I was digitizing the photos my mom took from the 40s to the 70s, I came to appreciate that she had “an eye” for photography. I’d like to think this is one of her traits that I inherited, in addition to being a tidy boy [photo].
My first experience taking photos was with a single-use (disposable) camera on a bicycle trip from Copper Center to Valdez in 1972 with a good friend from East Anchorage High School (EAHS). Our ride down Thompson Pass in the rain and fog, wearing backpacks, was a memorable experience.
My next experience with a single-use camera was in 1973, when my friend from EAHS and I completed a 1K+ mile bicycle trip from Calgary to Seattle. I recall riding over the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park was especially challenging without granny gears, but we were young men. Our bicycle trips were the start of many outdoor adventures in Alaska over a fifteen-year period.
My next camera was a 110 film cartridge camera. I used this camera in 1975 when I took a semester break from my studies at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks [photo] and worked as a Teamster 959 driver/fueler on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) project [photo, video]. As I moved with the construction crews and equipment from Franklin Bluffs (south of Prudhoe Bay) in August to Atigun Pass in December, I took a few snapshots from the haul road.
When I digitize my family’s prints this year, I plan to include the ones I took with my single-use and 110 cameras. I've only been able to find 15 prints so far, but I'm hopeful I'll find more in my storage boxes.
My first “real” camera was a 35mm Konica Autoreflex TC SLR. My mom gifted the camera to me after I took a photography class at UAF and graduated in 1978. I bought a Vivitar 70-210mm telephoto lens shortly after.
I used my camera and telephoto to capture what I saw on a solo four-month, 21K mile road trip (literally) around the USA and Canada that same year. During my trip, I took 966 photos (35mm slides).
In July 2021, I digitized my slides and posted a large collection on my family-only website. I enjoyed seeing Canada and the USA again through my 23-year old eyes. I had not looked at my photos for 40+ years. During my trip, I camped in the back of my new Toyota SR5 pickup, which conspicuously shows up in my photos throughout my trip.
In a nod to my children and especially my grandchildren, who might read this later, I never did the math to calculate what my carbon debt was from my pipeline work and road trip in the 1970s. As I grew older and scientists came to better understand climate change, however, I strived to be more responsible.
1980-1985: OSU, UO, Alaska Wilderness Studies
In 1980, after a short-lived stint in the hospitality industry in Alaska, I decided to explore other career options. After faithfully completing all the exercises in the book What Color is Your Parachute, I learned I was better suited for a left-brain career. That led me to move from Alaska to Oregon and then take steps to return to school.
After working in Portland at the Benson Hotel for six months, I moved to Corvallis and completed two terms in the Industrial Engineering program at Oregon State University (OSU). In 1981, I decided to switch to computer science and transfer to the University of Oregon (UO). Eugene was a good place for me to be in my 20s.
I graduated from UO in 1983, moved back to Anchorage, and took a job as a programmer at Alascom, a long-distance telephone company. Several months later, my EAHS friend prompted me to enroll in the Alaska Wilderness Studies (AWS) program at the University of Alaska in Anchorage (UAA). AWS was similar to the Mazamas organization. The AWS program promoted safety, education, and respect. Peak-bagging was not encouraged.
Now, back to photography. Since my 1978 Konica and telephoto were heavy and not well suited for my backcountry AWS trips, I purchased a compact Olympus XA 35mm Rangefinder. The Rangefinder was bombproof during our harsh Alaska weather conditions.
I also have many fond memories associated with my Rangefinder: my girlfriend, now wife [photo]; our friends; our backcountry trips and climbs; and our bring-your-own-slides shows. Social media had a different meaning then. We met in real life, insta and selfie were not words, and influencer was not a job title.
After I digitize my Alaska outdoor adventure slides [photo] this year, I plan to post some on Flickr. I’m eager to see my trips again through my 29-to-31 year-old eyes [photo]. My trips included treks in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Gates of the Arctic, and Denali National Park, climbs in the Alaska Range, Chugach Mountains, Talkeetna Mountains, Kenai Mountains and Seward Peninsula Mountains, and an ocean kayaking trip in the Prince William Sound.
1985-2000: Marriage, Children, Relocations
Shortly after my wife and I got married in 1985, my employer relocated us from Anchorage to Portland. Once we got settled in our new (1931) house, where we still live, we spent the next fifteen years raising our family, helping out at our children's schools, being good neighbors, fixing and improving our old house, and advancing in our careers.
In 1998, my wife and I took temporary job rotations and moved our family from Portland to Monroe, LA. For the next year, we enjoyed our time and the experiences we had living in the South.
As our three children grew up, like many parents, we took many family photos and videos. My daughter previously digitized ~4K of our prints. I plan to digitize the remaining (found Louisiana) prints this year.
I contracted the digitizing of our family's analog videos, as I did with my mom's films and videos.
2000-2010: Digital Age, Bicycling
In 2001, we purchased our first digital camera, a Canon PowerShot S100. I appreciated the savings in film costs, but I missed waiting to see the results. I used the PowerShot to take many family photos, including photos on a trip with my mom to England in 2002. It was my first trip abroad and a wonderful experience. We enjoyed exploring London and the Cumbria region, where my mom’s family is originally from.
I also used the PowerShot to take photos of bicycle trips with my children and extended bicycle rides with friends. Bicycling was a big part of my life for many years. When I lived in Oregon in the early 80s, I explored Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene by bicycle. The Peugeot I rode was the same bicycle I used on my trip from Calgary to Seattle in 1972.
From 2000 to 2010, I commuted year-round by bicycle [photo, photo] to my workplace in downtown Portland. My round-trip ride was 10 miles. I used my wife's bike [photo] because I found it was better suited for city riding than my road bike. Over time, like with my Peugeot before, I swapped out many of the components. Other than the frame, forks, headset and handlebars, it's now a Bianchi in name only. My wife plans to purchase a new bike. When she does, I'm looking forward to joining her on rides. Look out for us in the seniors' slow lane :)
Back to photography. In 2008, my wife purchased our next digital camera, a Panasonic DMC-TZ5. I used this camera when I started photoblogging my walks. See my Themes page for details.
If you've made it this far in my long narrative, thanks for reading and I hope our paths will cross in the future! If you have any comments, questions, or requests, please don't hesitate to contact me.
- Mark McClure
Last updated: 4/1/2022