Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vlog - Online Photography & Nudism

An interesting YouTube video discussion of nudism and the posting of nude photos on the web.

Perspective in your Photos . . . Include Yourself

... or more specifically, a good reason to include yourself in your photos of all those great places you visit.
Perspective refers to the relationship of imaged objects in a photograph. This includes their relative positions and sizes and the space between them. In other words, perspective in the composition of a photograph is the way real three-dimensional objects are pictured in a photograph that has a two-dimensional plane. In photography, perspective is another illusion you use to produce photographs of quality composition. From the U.S. Navy Photography Training Course

In this image of L-Chute waterfalls on the Tye River there are
few clues to the size, scope and the majesty of these falls.
When we view landscapes with our two eyes we are experiencing the scene stereoscopically (a slightly different image seen in each eye).  We render the landscape in 3D, drawing conclusions about depth, distance and relationships from those differences..

When we take that same image with our cameras, the result is two-dimensional and our only clues to spatial relationships are drawn from the compositional perspective either intentionally or unintentionally within the image.  That is why close up images of things like the waterfalls above, often fail to convey and impact the viewer on the depth and distance of objects experienced by actually being there and seeing it with your own two eyes.

A slight shift of camera position to include foreground objects
and the photographer establishes greater depth and perspective.
In the second image I moved the camera back slightly to include a few moss-covered boulders and myself.  Since most people are 5-6 feet tall (I'm six foot even), the viewer's eyes now have information to gauge the apparent size of these waterfalls.  Instead of a flat image of a landscape, there is depth and unseen, but imagined, lines of perspective to a vanishing point along which the elements of the image establish themselves.  The image conveys a lot more information.

With an abundance of bright areas in the image, the center-weighed metering of most digital cameras would underexpose the foreground.  Use of the fill-in flash and a little post-production enhancement to reduce backlighting helps to use the gradations of lighting on my torso also as clues to perspective (i.e., I appear to stand out in the image because of the lighting).

So . . . do you now have that excuse to include yourself in the pictures of your nude adventures?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Weather Can Turn on a Dime in the Mountains

I've advised that sentiment many times to those who head up into the mountains to do any kind of outdoor activity . . . let alone nude hiking.  Weather can change drastically within minutes in mountainous terrain such as the Cascades.

Such was the case this last Saturday (June 23rd).  Though there had been plenty of warning about a storm front coming in, the early afternoon was actually very pleasant and sunny . . . perfect weather to shuck the clothes and enjoy the sunshine.  I was on a tight weekly schedule leaving Saturday as the only day I could get some necessary repairs done at Scenic Hot Springs.  The sun was out shining bright and warm . . . the building of dark nimbus clouds far off over the Everett area in our so-called, famous Convection Zone.  Yeah, there were nasty looking clouds out there to the west but above us . . . calm clear sky and lots of sunshine.  What would you do if you were starving for some nude time?  Yeah . . . shuck the clothes.  But would you be prepared if the weather did suddenly change for the worse . . . capturing you in its' grip far from safety?

It's a 45 minute hike up to the springs from where I normally park.  By the time I got onto the powerline road the winds had picked up real nasty (I estimate 50-60 mph sustained gusts coming from the west in the funnel of the clearcut).  No big deal.  The wind is to my back and I have my backpack on.  The wind is actually helping me get up the slope!

Halfway up the rain starts . . . sideways.  The sun disappears and all of a sudden dark clouds have capped the entire Skykomish River Valley . . . streaming like a banshee through the saddle of Stevens Pass.  Enough.  The temperature is dropping fast and that is a serious warning sign of severe weather coming at me soon.

Okay, it's not avant garde high fashion but it keeps the winds and rain off of me.
Into the backpack where I carry an emergency rain suit.  It's cheap, light weight, occupies little space in my pack . . . and does the job of keeping the rain off my nude body as well as diminishing the cooling effects of the gusting winds.  It even protects me from the pelting of hail that peppered the area a few minutes later . . . just before I made it to the treeline beyond the trailhead and some shelter under the evergreen canopy.  There I waited out the worst of the sudden storm. 

Thunder and lightning were soon livening up the festivities and I considered options for protecting myself should lightning strike nearby . . . hopefully not directly (the BPA Towers made better targets and should shunt ground currents away from where I was.).  Standing out here I'm reminded of a line from one of the Star Trek NG episodes where microscopic hive-collective, sulfur-based aliens refer to human beings as nothing more than an "ugly bags of mostly water" (and make that 'salty' water).  Our bodies make excellent conductors . . . far better than the air around us or the ground beneath our feet.  And with that sobering thought, I move my feet together just so as not to provide an opportune path for an errant surge of ground current up one leg and down the other from the next bolt of lightning to hit nearby.

The last thing I expected to see were people even stupider than me for hiking into this kind of weather.  At the height of the unzippering of those clouds above, here come six teenagers (four boys and two girls) turning onto the hot springs trail.  Not a one of them wore any rain gear, let alone jackets.  They were dressed in cotton teeshirts and shorts . . . some in spandex . . . all of them with wet, dripping towels draped ineffectively over their heads.  They were soaked to the bone and it was actually a pitiful sight to see.  And they were trespassing.

So I stepped out from my relatively dry position and stopped them.  Yeah, the rain suit looks ridiculous . . . especially a translucent, see-thru rain suit on a nude person.  But I was relatively warm and dry, and they . . . clothed in branded teeshirts and such, were soaking wet and miserable.  I'm sure they planned to warm up in the hot spring except they didn't know where the hot springs were and were guessing from directions someone gave them.  Unfortunately, when I challenged them and informed them they were on private property, they got mouthy and I simply turned them around to hike all the way back down the mountainside in the continuing rain.

Personally, I would have felt warmer being out completely nude in that weather rather than enduring sopping wet cotton sapping all the heat from my body.

They were clothed and miserable . . . I was, well, essentially nude and warm and dry.  Is there a moral to this recounting?  Sure is.  Don't assume.  Even a large trash bag carried in your pack would make a very effective emergency poncho if needed. Weather does turn on a dime in the mountains.  Go prepared.

P.S., I did follow them back down at a distance to make sure none of them fell into cold distress.  They were an unhappy bunch driving off . . . but at least now they were under some shelter.  And maybe a little bit wiser.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Article: EFF Legal Guide for Bloggers

An interesting read on websites with 'adult' material posted on them.  While the thrust of the full article is on commercial adult websites with explicit sexual content (porn sites), the article does address some of the concerns nudists and naturists have for posting simple, nonsexual images of themselves on their own websites . . . such as personal blogs like this one.

It is interesting the re-read the Supreme Court's landmark Miller Test for obscenity; i.e., what is obscene; as well as the lesser-known Dost Test for lascivious as it relates to community standards.

One of the elements of the Miller Test is "Community Standards", which, since any posting on the Internet reaches every jurisdiction means that the least tolerant of jurisdictions could possibly bring action based on their own interpretation of what is obscene or not (Community Standards).  The article addresses this concern as well as on-going challenges of the law.

All in all . . . I am not going to worry about some super conservative community in . . . let's say, Arkansas . . . dragging me into court all the way from the State of Washington because they consider the images in my blog obscene.

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):

Can I put adult content on my blog?

Yes. The First Amendment protects your right to communicate legal adult content to the public. However, the law prohibits distribution of obscene material and child pornography. In addition, a federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 2257, currently being challenged in court, imposes record-keeping requirements on a broadly defined category of producers of sexually explicit material.

What is obscene material?

United States courts use the Miller test for determining whether speech or expression is "obscene," and therefore not protected by the First Amendment. That means it can legally be banned. 

The Miller test stems from Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973), in which the US Supreme Court held that material is obscene if each of the following factors is satisfied (emphasis is mine) :
  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
  • Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law;
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Most pornography depicting sexual acts or genitalia would not be considered obscene but community standards can vary widely (compare Peoria with Manhattan), and a blog can be seen in any jurisdiction.

How do you determine "community standards" on the Internet?

Under current law, the legal question of whether speech is obscene is determined partly by reference to local community standards. Federal venue rules permit an obscenity prosecution to be brought where the speech originated or where it was received. Internet speech, however, is received in every community of our nation. As a result, "the 'community standards' criterion as applied to a nationwide audience will be judged by the standards of the community most likely to be offended by the message." Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844 (1997). 

EFF is concerned that present law permits censorship of speech on the Internet under the standards of the least tolerant community, negating the values that the community standards doctrine was intended to protect -- diversity and localism in the marketplace of ideas. 

In Nitke v. Ashcroft, EFF is helping challenge the "least tolerant" standard. Barbara Nitke, a New York photographer who works with erotic subject matter, has joined with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom to challenge the constitutionality of provisions in the Communications Decency Act that create criminal penalties for making "obscene" materials available online. In July 2005, the district court ruled that the plaintiffs had not provided sufficient evidence of harm to maintain a facial challenge to the criminal provisions, but left open the possibility of a case-by-case analysis. EFF opposes this decision because the possibility of being hauled into court in the least tolerant jurisdiction could chill protected speech throughout the Internet. There will be an appeal.

What is a "lascivious" image?

Many courts apply the so-called Dost test to determine if a given image is considered to be "lascivious" under the law. United States v. Dost, 636 F. Supp. 828, 832 (S.D. Cal. 1986), aff'd sub nom., United States v. Wiegand, 812 F.2d 1239, 1244 (9th Cir. 1987) set forth a six factor test:
  • Whether the genitals or pubic area are the focal point of the image;
  • Whether the setting of the image is sexually suggestive (i.e., a location generally associated with sexual activity, such as a bed);
  • Whether the subject is depicted in an unnatural pose or inappropriate attire considering her age;
  • Whether the subject is fully or partially clothed, or nude;
  • Whether the image suggests sexual coyness or willingness to engage in sexual activity; and
  • Whether the image is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer.
This test requires a case-by-case analysis and is devoid of bright line rules.

How is the Dost Test applied in case law?

Nudity is not enough for a finding that an image is lascivious, but clothing does not mean a photo is in the clear: "a photograph of a naked girl might not be lascivious (depending on the balance of the remaining Dost factors), but a photograph of a girl in a highly sexual pose dressed in hose, garters, and a bra would certainly be found to be lascivious." United States v. Villard, 885 F.2d 117, 124 (3d Cir. 1989).

Setting is critical, but must be taken in context. For example, "while the setting of a bed, by itself, is some evidence of lasciviousness, it alone is not enough to support a finding of lasciviousness." Id. One should consider not just the bed, but how the person is posed on the bed (i.e. sleeping vs. posing seductively).

Context is also important in determining "whether the image is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer." For example, in jury instructions approved by the Ninth Circuit, the Court asked the jurors to consider the caption of the photograph. United States v. Arvin, 900 F.2d 1385 (9th Cir. 1990).

Will the DOJ really go after my little blog for a couple of risqué photos?

Probably not. First, as discussed above, the record-keeping requirements are only for actually sexually explicit conduct?photos of you topless at Burning Man or jogging naked for Bay to Breakers are not going to trigger the law. Second, the legality of the new regulations is being challenged in court, which should discourage the DOJ from going after borderline sites.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Advice to a first-time nude hiker

I recently had some correspondence with a couple asking about getting started in nude hiking and I thought to myself that this might be a good resource to share a little more widely via this blog.

 My wife and I would like to take our first nude hike.  We are not sure where to start.  Can you help?

< names removed >
Gig Harbor, WA

Hi xxxxxx,

Well, I would start with the thought that once you are out in the wilderness . . . not many people really care that much about encountering a nude person hiking.  That has been my experience. However, for your first time ever hiking nude, this can be somewhat of a giant leap of confidence in yourself.  Hiking nude should not be encumbered by those sorts of worries.  So for suggestions for a first time nude hike:


1.  Try a nudist club.  Of the three in western Washington (FraternitySnoqualmie in Issaquah, LARC near Mt Vernon, and Lake Bronson near Sultan) Bronson certainly has the most forest trails completely within their property for nude hiking.  Hiking nude on the property of a nudist club is devoid of worries about encounters with clothed hikers.

Hiking the slopes overlooking the Skykomish Valley with
Maya, my German Shepard

2.  Try Scenic Hot Springs near Stevens Pass.   A short, rigerous hike with a natural hot spring to relax in afterward.  Scenic is private property and clothing-optional is traditional on the property.  Scenic requires prior permission to visit (see ).  As I am one of the stewards of Scenic, requests also come to me to visits.

I would have suggested Olympic Hot Springs but with the Elwa Dam removal, the hike is now around 11 miles to the springs.  The final two miles have frequently been done by visitors in the buff.

3.  Try any number of gated, disused Forest Service roads along the major highways through the National Forests.  These are too numerous to list but if you come to one that is gated and with limited parking and no other cars  . . . there is a good chance that beyond the gate you will have solitude and privacy to enjoy your hike.  I prefer the ones that lead onto old clearcut (beyond active logging) that gives me plenty of open air and sunshine.  Another good option is the number of coastline miles of isolated beaches around Puget Sound.  Just be sure not to trap yourself because of miscalculation of the tides.

4.  Go for an established and maintained Forest Service trail.  Some trails are just simply too  accessible and popular but there are a number that take more effort to reach the trailhead and are listed as hard to difficult (meaning you won't find too many people on them).  Choose a weekday, choose a trail with only one entry point, and note the vehicles at the trailhead to guess as to who may, or may not already be on that trail.


1. Hiking nude in the wilderness does not mean that you can do away with the essential supplies (The Ten Essentials) for survival should something go wrong.  The weather may change for the ugly so you are going to have to carry something in case it starts to hail and thunder out there.  For me, that is a longish teeshirt, shorts and an emergency poncho/rainsuit in my backpack.  I wear sturdy hiking boots and my signature floppy blue hat.  No other clothing is needed, however, you should have available maps and charts of the area you are going into, sunglasses, your cell phone for an emergency, and someway to start a fire if the need arises.  I always carry a hiking staff and my camera to record my hikes.  What you bring with you is dependent of the distance and where you are going.  A short hike up a gated old logging road is not going to require that same preparation as a 15 miler to Fortune Ponds on Cady Ridge.

2.  Strip once you are beyond observation from the road that brought you to the trailhead.  I often stuff my clothes into the backpack where they are less than accessible . . . thereby forcing myself to accept any possible encounters with a grin and bare it attitude rather than a mad, guilty attempt to cover myself up.  Since I can't easily reach shorts, I don't worry about covering myself.  On more popular trails I may carry them closer and keep myself aware of my surroundings to cover up if necessary.  Once the worry about clothing is beyond your control, you will sooner enjoy the pure freedom of hiking au' natural.

3.  If that initial approach is too much, have clothing that is easy to put on.  For men, that is often just a pair of shorts or a wrap that can be put on to cover yourself quickly and without fumbling like you were guilty of something.  Make sure you can step into your shorts without falling over because the boots barely fit through.  For both men and women, consider a long teeshirt (to mid-thigh) that can be worn pulled up over the head so that, if needed, can be quickly pulled back over and down to cover oneself.  Practice doing so with the backpack on.

4.  Be aware of your surroundings.  If there was another car at the trailhead, there is probably someone else on the trail who you are going to encounter going in . . . . and once past them you are going to have the trail to yourself.  Time your hikes later so that you are going in when most people have returned . . . and coming out at a time where no one would be starting a hike inbound.  Most hikers start very early morning (too cold to hike nude anyway).  I generally start much later, aware of how many I might encounter coming back out . . . and feel pretty confident about encountering no one on my late return on the trail.

Note tracks . . . both car and bootprints.  Are puddles of water on the trail or road clear or muddied (giving evidence of someone recently going through)?  Are the bootprints inbound matched by the same prints outbound?  Note spider strands across the trail . . . encountering a lot on a probably untrod trail?  Maintain sight distance.  On trails and roads, hike the outside curve to see a greater distance around a bend . . . hike the inside to pull yourself back out of visibility.  Extend your sight distance and your hearing.  You will hear oncoming people most likely a lot sooner than you will see them.  On switchbacks, look up or down in the direction you are going to spot people on lower or
higher legs of the trail.  Since most people only look at where they are immediately going, noting the upcoming legs of a switchback gives you good advance notice of oncoming hikers.

Can't give you advice but do note that while National Forests are U.S. Government property, the counties they are within do have jurisdiction of county ordinances.  The interpretations of indecent exposure (being nude) vary . . . with King County being liberal and Snohomish County a little bit more restrictive.  Essentially, merely being nude is not considered indecent exposure, but lewd behavior (with a sexual component) is.  Someone has to complain (and be willing to appear in court to testify) and then a deputy has to intercept you to cite you for indecent exposure.  Few deputies I know are willing to undertake a hike into the wilderness to arrest someone for indecent exposure (unless there were compelling reasons to do so).  If you do not appear a threat to anyone (particularly solo women or children), then encounters are usually quickly forgotten about . . . or tweeted later for the chuckle-factor.  Beware of anyone angrily  taking your photo with a cell phone and appearing upset during the passing encounter (especially if they are outbound) as they may be sending your nude photo to law enforcement ahead on return to the trailhead.  Of the only two negative encounters I've ever have (out of hundreds), on return I was careful to make sure I was appropriately covered when I returned to the trailhead and my car.  In neither case did anything come out of the encounters . . . no cops, no angry mob . . . nothing.  

Some National Forests do have nudity prohibitions . . . Region Six (Oregon and Washington) does not, whereas Region Four (Idaho) does.  These prohibitions are called 'orders' and any ranger station can give you an answer about whether or not such a prohibition has been posted.

National Parks (such as Olympic and Rainier) are under exclusive federal jurisdiction and nudity prohibitions are more common in the non-rugged parts of these National Parks.  Sometimes, nudity is just tolerated . . . such as the case is for Olympic Hot Springs.  Closer to where more families go . . . Park Rangers can enforce and cite for nudity if such an order has been posted.

DNR (State Dept of Natural Resources) lands have no prohibitions of nudity on their lands, though county law enforcement can cite under county ordinances if the land is within the county borders.

State Parks have an explicit prohibition against nudity within state parks, so be careful in the  assemblage areas/campgrounds of state parks.  County and municipal parks/wetlands/wilderness areas have their own rules.  The closer you get to urban areas, the more difficult you are going to find nude hiking to be.

I have found that once I am beyond a mile into the wilderness, I rarely encounter anyone, and those that I do on occasion, simply are amused or don't care.  On several occasions, those I have passed had been hiking nude themselves, except they covered up when they heard me coming.  On another occasion I convinced a couple coming up unexpectantly behind me to chat about being nude . . . and then we continued on all together on that sunny day . . . after they themselves asked if it would be okay to strip down and hike nude along with me.   They recognized that there could be no other better way to enjoy nature than to expose their complete being to the sensations all around them.

All that said, I've been hiking nude for twenty good years and only had two minor bad encounters (both scowls of disapproval).  If you are considerate of expectations of fellow hikers (is the trail a popular trek for young kids, etc.), choose a day and time when encounters are less likely . . . you are going to have a great time enjoying nature with every fiber of your being.

I hike practically every Friday and Saturday in the Cascades along Highway 2 . . . if you are up in that area, perhaps we can do a safe and comfortable hike as a group.  Let me know . . . and definitely let me know if you do your first nude hike . . . and how it came out.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Coco Goes to Heaven

I lost my beloved puppy, Coco this last Tuesday and it has hit me particularly hard.  In memory . . . and to ease my grief I'd like to share this photo album of Coco's memories and of his last moments in the clinic.  There is meditative music with the full album here.  Or you can view the album less the music here.

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