Expeditions Alaska http://www.expeditionsalaska.com Visit The Wild Sun, 12 Apr 2015 10:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Aurora borealis and the Coronahttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/aurora-borealis-and-the-corona/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/aurora-borealis-and-the-corona/#comments Sun, 12 Apr 2015 10:00:35 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=5315 Hey Folks, As the northern lights season, or aurora borealis season, starts to wind down for those of us here in Alaska, it’s often harder and harder to be motivated to get out yet again and spend the night hoping for some nice displays. Last night I saw the data online looking promising for the […]

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The aurora borealis and corona, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

The aurora borealis and corona, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska. Please click on the phone above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

As the northern lights season, or aurora borealis season, starts to wind down for those of us here in Alaska, it’s often harder and harder to be motivated to get out yet again and spend the night hoping for some nice displays. Last night I saw the data online looking promising for the northern lights, and the skies here started to clear up a bit, I thought I’d keep an eye skyward.

So after movie-time finished, I checked outside and sure enough, the northern lights were kicking overhead. I grabbed my camera gear, threw on some pants, and headed out.

This shot above is a photo of the aurora borealis corona. I’ve often been asked what the corona is, and why it’s called the corona. No, its not enough the famous song, Muy muy muy muy, Corona, by English punk band The Knack.

I’ll tell you a little known secret. The activity or display we call a “corona” is named for a very simple reason; the root word is “coronary”, which is what you’re going to have, trying to adjust your tripod, ballhead, camera and lens, as well as yourself, into a suitable position to photograph this phenomenon. Trust me.

Your gear is all nicely set up, well-positioned, focused, exposure correctly adjusted for, and you’re shooting across this grand landscape that you picked out for your foreground, capturing all kinds of wonderful northern lights photos. Everything is going to plan. Then you notice the arc shifting, brightening, intensifying, and rising ever upward into the sky. You know exactly what’s about to happen.

You try to loosen your ballhead and adjust the angle of your camera straight up toward the sky, directly overhead, because you know this is where the action is about to be. Directly overhead. Have you ever tried to take a photo, in the dark, at -30 degrees, directly overhead, using a tripod and ballhead?

Your knees bend, your back flexes, arching, contorting your body into the most impossible of postures, and yet still you can’t see through the viewfinder. Still not working. Instead, you stoop and bow and crane your neck. Yes, this might work better, bend at the neck rather than the knee. The human body does well with this approach, right?.

You get one eyeball to see through the viewfinder. The viewfinder is now frosted over with a good 1/4″inches of moisture from your breath, exhaling profusely from these inconceivable deformities you’re forcing your body through.

The aurora gathers overhead, patiently at first, awaiting for you to be set and ready.

Upside down, cold and unable to feel your fingertips, you’re uncertain of which of the 3 tension adjusters on the ballhead you need to loosen slightly. This one here, beneath the thumb.

Wrong.

Your camera, weighing over 3 pounds now mounted with a heavy, hard and frozen 14-24mm lens on it, flops down, dropping straight on to your eyeball. That’s definitely gunna leave a mark. Nice.

Fortunately, you can’t really feel the pain, as the air is numbingly cold right now. And the blood, beginning to ooze from your newest of wounds, will coagulate and freeze up quickly at his temperature.

Fumbling further, your frustrations mount as the aurora decides to move on with the show. The sky brightens further, the lights dance and soar, and your camera is still not pointing directly toward the stage. Well, maybe it is. Who knows, because you can’t quite get into the right position to see through the frozen-over viewfinder anyway. So fire away and hope for the best.

Dropping to one knee, you look upward to see an over-exposed image of half the corona, and coal black sky. You’ve practiced though, and even here, half blind  and frozen, in the dark, you’re able to drop the exposure by  1 and 2/3 stops without turning on your headlamp or even having to watch what you’re doing. You’re an aurora shooter, your pride momentarily upwelling in your chest at how skilled you are. Fire again.

Nope, you forgot to recompose, another image, better exposed but still with blown highlights, of half the corona.

The tripod is set, of course, too high for you to shoot from your knees, and not tall enough for you to stand and look through the now almost opaque viewfinder window. More distortions, more crooking and crinking (and, at my age, crinkling), you warp your body just a little more. Now you can see into the viewfinder, but the angle is all wrong. You still can’t compose from here.

Angle your left leg a little further that way, hoping you don’t slip on the ice beneath your feet. That’s it. Now, eye to the viewfinder and .. well .. not quite, scrunch up just a little more.

Wow, you can actually see through your viewfinder. Grabbing the tension knob, the correct one this time, you adjust it just enough to loosen the camera. You twist and twiddle, and can’t quite reframe the camera as you need to.

Loosen the panning knob, that’ll do it. Ouch, that wasn’t the panning knob. Another mark, this one to your cheekbone.

Retighten that one, loosen this one .. that’s it .. pan around. Now your knees won’t pivot any further, you try the swivel. The hips, that’s it the hips .. swivel baby.

There.

Your entire body is starting to buckle now. The g force just reached 7.1, and you, Aurora shooter, you don’t give in to the pain.

But, look at that … the corona is right there in your viewfinder. Shoot, shoot, shoot …..

You can’t feel the shutter release button, of course, with your frozen knob of a finger, but you press and press and press until finally something clicks.

You just adjusted your flash setting by 1 stop. Nice.

Move your hand and press again. That’s it, the shutter release button. Woo hoo!!!

Of course you shot, without retightening those knobs. Your old friend the panning knob allows just enough play for the camera to rotate ever so slightly. Those tiny little star trails won’t look too bad, will they?

Of course they will, you’re better than that. Tighten that knob.

Shoot.

Oh, look, you didn’t tighten the OTHER tension knob, and it too now has decided to loosen its grasp on your camera. With a mind of it’s own, your camera has once again wandered off in search of its own creative composition throughout your brief exposure. Your histogram is killing it, perfect, nothing blown out, but you’ve blurred everything. And these little star trails are squiggly. How cute.

Reloosen, recompose, tighten, check ….

and

Oh look, the moment’s gone, the corona is now a soft dim curtain of dust in the dark night air.

Fix it in photoshop, right?

Now, about this rising crushing pain in your chest. Here comes that coronary.

:)

All in fun, but I trust ANYONE who’s spent much time shooting the aurora knows exactly what I’m talking about.

We call it a “corona” after the Latin word, “coronaries”, which means “of a crown”, or “corona” itself, which translates in English as “crown”.

And yes, it is as difficult to shoot as I’ve just described. But oh wow, what fun we have …

Cheers

Carl

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Image of the Month, April 2015 – Aurora borealishttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/aurora-borealis-white-mountains/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/aurora-borealis-white-mountains/#comments Sat, 28 Mar 2015 03:05:54 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=5311 Hey Folks, Here’s the image for this month, from a crazy month chasing the aurora around Alaska. We had some phenomenal nights this year, absolutely incredible auroras. Great group of folks for the trip, we all made some nice images, and had a bunch of fun. Cheers Carl

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The northern light, or aurora borealis, tower above the White Mountains of arctic Alaska.

The northern light, or aurora borealis, tower above the White Mountains of arctic Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s the image for this month, from a crazy month chasing the aurora around Alaska. We had some phenomenal nights this year, absolutely incredible auroras. Great group of folks for the trip, we all made some nice images, and had a bunch of fun.

Cheers

Carl

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Coastal Wildlife Tourhttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/coastal-wildlife-tour/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/coastal-wildlife-tour/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 04:28:38 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=5308 Hey Folks, In case you’re thinking otherwise, the Coastal Wildlife and Brown Bear photo tour is NOT all about the bears. Well, it’s definitely mostly about the bears. But we’ll also dedicate a good chunk of time to looking around for, and photographing, some other creatures as well. One of the primary ones we’ll see […]

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Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina), Alaska

An adult gray Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina), Katmai Coast,Katmai National Park, Alaska. Click the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

In case you’re thinking otherwise, the Coastal Wildlife and Brown Bear photo tour is NOT all about the bears. Well, it’s definitely mostly about the bears. But we’ll also dedicate a good chunk of time to looking around for, and photographing, some other creatures as well. One of the primary ones we’ll see will be Harbor Seals. And, short of donning your scuba gear and swimming with the pinnipeds, there’s not many better opportunities than this one for some really, really cool Harbor seal images.

If you’re a subscriber to the newsletter, check out the trip special in the latest newsletter I just sent out. A pretty sweet deal for this trip, with limited space available.

If you’re not a subscriber to the newsletter, you probably should be. It’s legendary! Fill in the details in the form on the sidebar of the blog post, and you’re good to go.

And if you’re thinking about what photo tour you might want to take this summer, look no further. This Alaska Coastal Wildlife and Brown Bear Photo Tour is the ticket.

Cheers

Carl

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Polar bear week – Day 1http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/polar-bear-day/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/polar-bear-day/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 00:13:43 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=5276 Hey Folks, International Polar Bear Day is right around the corner; Feb 27th. So I’ll make this Polar Bear Week. I’ll try to post a picture a day of these ridiculously awesome animals. Starting with this one. Tweet it with #polarbear This curious young cub approached our group, and by carefully positioning where we were […]

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A cub of the year, approximately 8-9 months of age, walks toward the camera over the fresh snow of arctic Alaska. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska.

A cub of the year, approximately 8-9 months of age, walks toward the camera over the fresh snow of arctic Alaska. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

International Polar Bear Day is right around the corner; Feb 27th. So I’ll make this Polar Bear Week. I’ll try to post a picture a day of these ridiculously awesome animals. Starting with this one. Tweet it with #polarbear

This curious young cub approached our group, and by carefully positioning where we were set up, we got nice clean backgrounds, a great low perspective to shoot from, and some really nice images.

This one is one of my new favorite polar bear images. You can see a collection of my polar bear photos on my stock site, Skolai Images.  For info and a look at the polar bear photo tour I run, click here.

Cheers

Carl

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Sea kayaking Icy Bay Videohttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/sea-kayaking-icy-bay-video/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/sea-kayaking-icy-bay-video/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 02:26:01 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=5138 Hey Folks How glassy is “glassy”? Here’s a short clip I put together of clips I made playing with a new GoPro last summer. It’s so different to shooting with a regular camera or video camera, there’s a lot to learn. But kinda fun, all the same. Icy Bay isn’t always this glassy, but it’s […]

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Screen shot of Icy Bay sea kayaking.

Icy Bay sea kayaking.

Hey Folks

How glassy is “glassy”? Here’s a short clip I put together of clips I made playing with a new GoPro last summer. It’s so different to shooting with a regular camera or video camera, there’s a lot to learn. But kinda fun, all the same.

Icy Bay isn’t always this glassy, but it’s unusual either. And it’s an absolutely amazing experience to go out on the water, among these countless icebergs, and just drift along on a kayak, or paddle gently up the fjords. Really, really great fun.

The tune I used here is “Dear Ellen”, by Shane Theriot, from his album, “Highway 90″. I met Shane years ago, when I was in college studying guitar. Shane was teaching there at the ripe young age of 21. He’s awesome. He left the school shortly after my studies ended, and has been playing and writing and producing music since then. He’s currently the guitar player for Hall & Oates, and just last week won a Grammy award. How awesome is that! If you’re interested, you can buy Highway 90 on iTunes.

There are quite a few articles on the site about Alaska Sea Kayaking trips, from types of trips, to gear, locations, safety and so on. Read up if you’re interested!

Enough from me; I hope you enjoy it. Here’s the video

Cheers

Carl

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Alaska Sea Kayaking Photoshttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/alaska-sea-kayaking-photos/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/alaska-sea-kayaking-photos/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 03:01:37 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=5025 Hey Folks Here are few images from our sea kayaking trip to Icy Bay last summer. Awesome conditions, we had a blast. Icy Bay is one of the coolest areas for sea kayaking in Alaska; great camping, great beach hiking, spectacular scenery and absolutely unparalleled sea kayaking and paddling. Icebergs, glaciers, seals, dolphins, brown bears, […]

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Hey Folks

Here are few images from our sea kayaking trip to Icy Bay last summer. Awesome conditions, we had a blast. Icy Bay is one of the coolest areas for sea kayaking in Alaska; great camping, great beach hiking, spectacular scenery and absolutely unparalleled sea kayaking and paddling. Icebergs, glaciers, seals, dolphins, brown bears, bald eagles, falcon, murres and murrelets, and Mt. St. Elias towering above everything. It’s pretty tough to beat.

Hope you enjoy the photos below. I’ll try to get some video of the kayaking online soon; nothing quite like paddling through all those icebergs across that glassy water!!

Mt. St. Elias towers in the background, behind the landing strip at Icy Bay as a bush plane with our pilot makes a perfect landing. The glassy waters of Icy Bay make for great Alaska sea kayaking adventures. It doesn't get much calmer water than this! Icy Bay at its finest. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park. Tsaa Fjord in Icy Bay and the Yahtse Glacier, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska. harbor seal sits on a iceberg haulout in Icy Bay. Icy Bay is home to several thousands Harbor Seals. This one is hauled out on an iceberg in front of Yahtse Glacier. Chuck pauses for a minute in his sea kayak. Campsite with an electric fence around the tent to deter any pesky bears from tearing up our gear.

If you’re interested in a sea kayaking trip this summer, give me a yell! 770-952-4549

Cheers

Carl

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Image of the month: grizzly bear in the fallhttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/grizzly-bear-in-the-fall/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/grizzly-bear-in-the-fall/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 02:10:57 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=4948 Hey Folks Welcome to Feb, 2015! Here’s a grizzly bear, or brown bear, image from our Grizzlies in the Fall photo tour. I know it’s not really grizzly bear season right now, they’re hunkered down for the winter, but I haven’t been shooting much around Alaska lately as I’ve been gone a while. It’s great […]

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A young grizzly bear, or brown bear, takes a drink early in the morning, fall (autumn) (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A young grizzly bear, or brown bear, takes a drink early in the morning, fall (autumn) (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

Welcome to Feb, 2015! Here’s a grizzly bear, or brown bear, image from our Grizzlies in the Fall photo tour. I know it’s not really grizzly bear season right now, they’re hunkered down for the winter, but I haven’t been shooting much around Alaska lately as I’ve been gone a while. It’s great to be back!

Summer will be here before you know it, and this year I’ve a number of trips I’m looking forward to. Stay tuned for some fun stuff!

Click here for info about this photo tour.

Cheers

Carl

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Happy New Year, all!http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/happy-new-year-2015/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/happy-new-year-2015/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 13:11:19 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=4173 Hey Folks, Wishing you all the very best for the coming year. Cheers Carl

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A cub of the year, approximately 8-9 months of age, walks toward the camera over the fresh snow of arctic Alaska. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska.

A cub of the year, approximately 8-9 months of age, walks toward the camera over the fresh snow of arctic Alaska. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Wishing you all the very best for the coming year.

Cheers

Carl

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Bald Eagle Silhouette; Image of the Month, Dec 2014http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/bald-eagle-photo-iom-12-2014/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/bald-eagle-photo-iom-12-2014/#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 07:17:56 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=4149 Hey Folks, A quickie before I take off? I’m not really that kinda guy .. but here’s a photo from our recent trip to Haines, taken the last morning of the trip. I was pretty stoked to see this pop up on the viewfinder. Heading down under to see my folks, so not sure how […]

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A soaring bald eagle silhouetted against a gorgeous Alaska sunrise.

A soaring bald eagle silhouetted against a gorgeous Alaska sunrise. Please click the thumbnail above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

A quickie before I take off? I’m not really that kinda guy .. but here’s a photo from our recent trip to Haines, taken the last morning of the trip. I was pretty stoked to see this pop up on the viewfinder.

Heading down under to see my folks, so not sure how much I’ll be able to post over the next month, I’ll try to post something though. You all have a wonderful holiday season.

Cheers

Carl

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The Lost Coast Hikehttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/lost-coast-hike/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/lost-coast-hike/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 17:45:14 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3886 Hey Folks Now that summer and fall has wound down some, I’ve got a little time to catch up on image processing and maybe blogging as well! We’ll see how far we get with that. One of the trips I was really looking forward to this summer was a hike along the coast, the southern […]

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The Lost Coast in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, with Mt Cook and the Saint Elias Range rising in the background.

The Lost Coast in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, with Mt Cook and the Saint Elias Range rising in the background. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

Now that summer and fall has wound down some, I’ve got a little time to catch up on image processing and maybe blogging as well! We’ll see how far we get with that.

One of the trips I was really looking forward to this summer was a hike along the coast, the southern reaches of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I’d hiked part of this area previously, some of it a couple of times, but I’d never hiked the eastern section, below the Malaspina Forelands. So it was a great experience to finally get down to this area and walk the coastline, completing what is really a cool walk.

We did the hike as an exploratory trek this year, and took a bit longer for the the hike than I normally might, as we wanted to explore a few things along the way, look for the best campsites, and so on.

Packrafts are a necessity along this route; some of the rivers that have to be crossed would be foolish to cross without a packraft, unless at super low water. So we carried a couple of Alpacka Packrafts, and all the gear to go along with that. It’s a bit of “extra” weight to haul, for sure, but it’s so worth it to open up so much of Alaska’s awesome backcountry that would otherwise be impassable.

We also took a side venture with the packrafts north, off the beachline, to Malaspina Lake, and then paddled part of the lake one glorious afternoon, then paddled back down one of the outlets from the lake to the beach, and made our way over to camp. A great day trip, and easily a good overnight as well, if desired; some really cool little islands in the lake would make fantastic campsites.

Bears a’ plenty, we ran into 3 grizzlies in 5 days. No problems or issues at all, but there are definitely a number of big ole brown bears (grizzly bears and brown bears are the same species) along the coast. Alaska Dispatch recently had a mic article about these Malaspina Brown bears.

What we didn’t run into is people. Nobody. We spent 5-6 days along the coast, then another 5 days in Icy Bay sea kayaking and hiking and photographing, and not a soul outside ourselves. How cool is that! This area is so little visited, in the summer of 2014, the Malaspina District, an area 150 miles in length, had fewer than 75 people visit the entire season. If you don’t count people hunting and fishing, the season had a grand total of 2 people along the Lost Coast. Chuck, from Florida and I were the only folks here all summer! Way cool.

Most of the hike is beach walking, sand and some small rocks, nothing problematic. The western end of the trek, we didn’t hike this time around, has a much rockier section along Sitkagi Bluffs (Or Sitkagi Boulders, as it should be more appropriately named). There’s no real issue with tides for the hike, other than river crossings, which are best dealt with via packrafts. The tide can come up pretty high on the beach, and I would be super careful about tent sites on the beach; in general, avoid it, especially once you are west of Sudden Stream.

We finished our trek with a very cool mile or 2 through the magnificent Sitka Spruce Forest, along a centuries old bear trail; how do I know it’s that old? Because the bear prints, imprints of individual footsteps (bears often will walk along in a trail stepping precisely in the footsteps of previous bears), are worn 6 inches deep into the moss and earth. How cool is it to hike along a trail like that, and step in those same footsteps!

Amazing views of the St. Elias Mountain Range, of course, definitely a highlight of the trip. And the Pacific Ocean is always a treat to walk beside. We saw river otters, bald eagles, various species of shore birds, ducks and other waterfowl, as well as sea birds like Oyster Catchers, gulls, etc, etc. Tons o’ stuff!

Les, our pilot, showed up on the beach right on time and flew us and our gear over to Icy Bay, where we sea kayaked and hiked for another 5 days before wrapping things up and heading back to Yakutat for a shower and a burger. Fun times.

I’ve got some GoPro video from the sea kayaking and packrafting sections, I’ll try to splice together over the winter and post it online as I can.

Great trip! If you’re interested, drop me a line about the summer of 2015; I’ll definitely be leading this trip again. Great for Beginners -> Advanced, a little something for everybody, if you will.

Cheers

Carl

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