I couldn’t help but stare out the window during the short 45 minute flight from Anchorage to Iliamna — my home base for the next week as I sought to photograph the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) and maybe catch a glimpse of the elusive coastal wolf (Canis lupus). Coming from Seattle, Washington, I am no stranger to vast mountain ranges, winding rivers, and large bodies of water, but the Alaskan scenery left me awestruck. I couldn’t believe that I was going to spend the next week in this incredible place. Continue reading →
It’s not that one or two things or even a hundred things are beautiful – every single aspect of the natural world is beautiful, even the very air around us. Using high-energy particles from the sun as brushes and electrons orbiting atoms in our upper atmosphere as a canvas, impossible abstracts are painted across the night sky in neon colors. Of all the astral phenomena that draw our eyes to the heavens, the aurora is the most spectacular. And, it requires no special equipment to view it, only a willingness to stay out when most people are asleep (and to endure some cold temperatures).
The Cree called it the “Dance of the Spirits,” and in the Middle Ages it was regarded as a sign from God. Today we call it aurora borealis after the Roman goddess of the dawn and the Greek name for the north wind. Its most basic form is a static green band, usually stretching across the northern horizon. As it becomes more active, pink, red and even violet are added to the palette. These colors can fall down in curtains or dance across the heavens in twisting waves, as if responding to music we cannot hear. A photographer could point a lens at the same spot all night, taking one photo after another, and never repeat an image. Continue reading →
Alaskan brown bear (grizzly) with a salmon at the Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Katmai National Park is best-known for its three prime attractions: bears, bears and more bears. Within Katmai’s borders lie several spectacular mountains, such as Mt. Douglas volcano and Four-Peak Mountain, as well as scenic creeks, rivers and lakes that are seasonally teeming with salmon. While brown bears draw the majority of visitors, salmon draw the bears. Continue reading →
In 1980, seven Alaska parks were created in one fell swoop. Specifically, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (or ANILCA) was passed by Congress on November 12, 1980 and signed into law a couple of weeks later. Among other things, the act provided for more than 43 million acres of new national parklands in Alaska. Kenai Fjords National Park is one of them.
Giving birth to Kenai Fjords came with some really sharp labor pains. The local citizenry was initially opposed to setting aside these lands, but they came to enthusiastically support their expansion as they experienced the injection of tourist dollars into their local economies. Continue reading →
Once you get past the Anchorage city limits, the rest of Alaska is nearly as wild and untamed as the old West was in the late nineteenth century. Denali National Park and Preserve, for example, encompasses more than six million acres of mountains, glaciers, valleys, rivers, wilderness and hills.The premier national park in all of Alaska is renowned for its unparalleled scenic splendor and array of wildlife. Within Denali’s borders is a good chunk of the magnificent Alaska Range. As the North American tectonic plate continues to slowly ride up and over the Pacific plate, the Alaska Range is thrust ever upward in growing scenic majesty. Tallest among these rugged peaks is Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). At 20,340 feet, towering Denali is far and away the highest mountain in all of North America. Continue reading →
In the last issue of eNews (Part I), I wrote about a private cruise along the Alaskan Coast where I was invited to teach photography. In that piece, I emphasized the importance of keeping your equipment and yourself safe and weatherproof when photographing from a small boat. Now that we are warm and cozy, and our equipment is protected from the fickle elements of the weather, let’s explore some shooting techniques.
Unless you are photographing from a ship (remember, a boat fits on a ship, but a ship cannot fit on a boat), a tripod is not going to be useful. There is too much wave action and other vibration-causing variables, such as boat motors, breaching whales, splashing seals and such. Handholding your equipment is the way to go on a small skiff. Having the luxury of great technology today is helpful in achieving sharp images when handholding gear. Continue reading →