Image of the Month, March 2014; Northern lights and a backlit tent

April 7th, 2014 by
A backlit tent and the northern lights in the White Mountains, Alaska

Using my tent as a foreground subject, I lit it from behind with my headlamp, while the northern lights danced overhead. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a shot from the recent aurora borealis photo tours in March; I set up the tent for the shot, it was merely a prop. It took a few times to get the balance right with the headlamp for the exposure. Trial and error is really the only way to make this work.

Foregrounds matter when shooting the northern lights, as they do when shooting just about anything. Adding anything of interest to the foreground can really help balance the colors and dynamism of the northern lights overhead.

Cheers

Car

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Image of the Month: Wrangell St. Elias in Winter

March 3rd, 2014 by
Winter in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park.

A bluebird day in the lowlands of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Wonderful winter weather! Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

We’ve had some stupendous weather here in Alaska this last few weeks, and I was lucky enough to get out and about for some photography. Here’s a shot from my favorite park, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve one gorgeous bluebird day. It just doesn’t get much better than this!

Hopefully this weather will hold through March for the northern lights photo tours. So far the auroras have been pretty rockin’ in 2014, and I’m really looking forward to shooting them some more this coming month.

Hope you enjoy it,

Cheers

Carl

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International Polar Bear Day

February 27th, 2014 by
Polar Bear mother nursing cubs, Alaska.

A large adult female polar bear nurses her 2 cubs. Cubs will stay with their mother for 2-3 years, and nurse on and off during that time. Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Today is designated International Polar Bear Day; what a great day!

We were super fortunate to get this opportunity on our Polar Bear Photo Tour last fall, with the sow nursing her 2 cubs and facing us. Cameras went crazy and everyone got some really nice shots. And the cubs fed well. All in all, I think it worked out nicely for everyone involved!

This year we’ll be there 2 weeks, and I’m already looking forward to it. Few things are more fun than watching these great bears of the north in their natural habitat.

Cheers

Carl

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Polar bear walking across the frozen Arctic Ocean

February 20th, 2014 by
A curious young polar bear walks across the thin ice as the cold waters of the Beaufort Sea begin to freeze up in early Fall. Polar bear, Ursus maritimus, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

A curious young polar bear walks across the thin ice as the cold waters of the Beaufort Sea begin to freeze up in early Fall. Polar bear, Ursus maritimus, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s probably a good time for another polar bear photo, don’t ya think?

This young fella was curious enough to venture out, albeit cautiously, over the think, newly formed ice of the Beaufort Sea, to come in for a closer look. I wanted to get a nice low angle, and give a sense of the expansive arctic setting behind him.

One tip I’ll offer wildlife photographers, and bear photographers in particular, is try as hard as you can to catch them with a front paw raised, and not the back paw. Most animals, and especially bears, just look awkward and clumsy with a back leg in the air. So rather than just keep my thumb on the hammer and fire away as a bear walks by or approaches, I tend to try to time a few short bursts to catch the pose I want.

This also helps with avoiding the dreaded “oh crap, I filled the buffer” problem as well. Just remember to shoot BEFORE you see that front paw come up – if you wait til the front paw is lifted, you’l be late. Anticipate and shoot. And practice.

Cheers

Carl

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Muh muh muh, myyyyyy Corona – Aurora borealis

February 17th, 2014 by
Corona of the aurora borealis, Alaska

The aurora borealis corona, or Coronal Aurora borealis – directly overhead, photographed with a 50mm f1.4 lens. ISO 2000, aperture 1.4, s/s 1/3 sec. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

“Oooh, my little pretty one, pretty one,
When ya gunna give me some,
My Corona”

Hey Folks,

What a cool tune, eh?

This image of the aurora borealis corona was taken last March on one of the aurora borealis tours. Here’s to hoping we get a night like this one again. Absolutely incredible evening, and it went on and on and on and on …. all night long. I think we got home at something like 9am this morning. I remember we nearly missed breakfast at the hotel because they were closing it up when we rocked into town. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Northern lights and Wrangell Mountains

February 10th, 2014 by
The northern lights fill the sky over the Wrangel Mountains and Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

The northern lights fill the sky over the Wrangell Mountains and Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Winter in Alaska is a fun time; it’s a hard time for a photographer because we have to choose between shooting during the day time, and waiting out the nights for the northern lights. And then switching schedules back and forth as the weather and the northern lights predictions change.

So the last few nights I’ve spent mostly sitting around at night hoping to be in the right place at the right time. For the most part, instead I’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shooting the northern lights is harder than most folks expect; shooting the northern lights with very specific compositions and scenes is even harder, because everything has to be just right. There are a few areas I have in mind for some northern lights images over the Wrangell Mountains, and so far, I’ve not gotten close. Every night the potential has been there, I’ve ventured out, only to be skunked. And few places can really skunk a photographer like Alaska can. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Image of the Month, Feb 2014; Backlit Brown bear at dawn

February 7th, 2014 by
A backlit brown bear on the shores of a Lake,  at dawn. Brown bear (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A backlit brown bear on the shores of a cool Alaska lake, at dawn. Brown bear (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

A few days late, sorry. Here’s the February “Image of the Month”, a brown bear at dawn, backlit by the soft warm light of the morning, with a light mist over the water. Sometimes, I swear, the bears seem to enjoy a pretty morning as much as we do.

As I do every winter, I’m looking forward to getting back to Katmai this coming fall for some great bear photography.

Cheers

Carl

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Sleeping warm winter camping in Alaska

January 27th, 2014 by
Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Mountain Hardwear Ghost sleeping bag, Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s January, and Alaska can be a rough place to sleep outside during this time of year. Temperatures can easily be down below zero F, even into the minus 30′s and 40′s, or colder. So sleeping outside is not to be taken lightly.

Bring a good sleeping bag. A REALLY good sleeping bag. If you predict temperatures of zero (F), I’d go with a sleeping bag rated to minus 20 degrees F. I prefer a down sleeping bag over synthetic bags, but the key is a high quality, and well rated bag. If you have a good synthetic fill sleeping bag, use that. It’ll be heavier, and less compatible, but you can deal with that. You don’t want to have to deal with being cold.

Your bag is your last refuge against the cold. Don’t skimp on it. Bring “more” sleeping bag than you think you need.  I do like the goretex or similar shells for winter bags, and highly recommend them.

Bring a good sleeping pad. A REALLY good sleeping pad. Jake, above, is using (well, half using) an Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW, which I highly recommend if you’re not packing it into the backcountry. If you need to haul it (snowshoeing, skiing, backpacking, go with an Exped Downmat 7 or even the Downmat 9). An insulated pad insulates you against the cold snow underneath, where even the best sleeping bag won’t offer much protection – once you lie down in the bag and compress the insulation underneath you (be it down or synthetic), it offers little insulating value. So a high quality insulated pad makes a huge difference. You want it to be about an inch or more thick.

Although it’s not generally needed with a high quality sleeping pad like this, I often like to throw a hard cell foam pad under the inflatable. It adds a little extra insulation, but mostly a little protection against a leak or anything. It’ll definitely ad to the life of your sleeping pad. Unlike Jake, above, don’t slide off the sleeping pad. You’ll get cold. :)

…. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Tent Review – Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP Review

January 4th, 2014 by
Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP backpacking tent in Alaska.

My backpacking tent, the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP ultralight tent, sitting thigh on a ridge in the Chugach Mountains on our Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes trek, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, last summer. This tent LOVES this place! Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

Some of you might have seen a few years back I raved about the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 backpacking tent. So why now, am I writing about it again? Why, other than to show you our killer campsite we call “The Mezzanine”, from the classic Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes trekking trip? Everybody loves The Mezzanine!

Well, one more reason its because it’s been upgraded, modified and changed, twice now in fact, so I thought I’d touch on a couple of things about the newer version of this tent, the Skyledge 2 DP.

Firstly, it has a new name. The DP is short for ‘Dry Pitch’. Meaning it’s possible to set the rainfly section of the tent up first, and then add the inner part of the tent afterward; a handy feature in the rain, for sure. The Mountain Hardwear bio reads “DryPitch™ fly-first pitching lets you set up the tent in the rain and stay dry”, which I think is a little misleading. You will still get wet. The inner part of your tent will stay somewhat drier .. but rarely will it remain completely dry. Still, it’s a handy feature that I’m glad to see Mountain Hardwear working on. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Image of the Month; January 2014 – Snowshoeing Caribou Creek

January 1st, 2014 by
Bob and Nancy pause for a photo while snowshoeing on the Caribou Creek Trail, in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Bob and Nancy pause for a photo while snowshoeing on the Caribou Creek Trail, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Hey Folks,

Welcome to the new year!

I thought we’d start of the fun this year with a quick photo from a place I’ll be headed to next week; Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. A week snowshoeing, skiing, sitting by the fire, watching out at night for some northern lights, enjoying good company, good food and a nice warm fire sounds like a GREAT way to start the new year. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Owner and guide Carl Donohue.

 

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