Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Notes about photography, taking photos in the backcountry, hiking with camera gear, questions about gear, and suggestions to help make your photos a little better.

How to photograph the northern lights – part 2

Monday, November 21st, 2011
Aurora borealis lights up the winter night sky over Mt McKinley, highest mountain in North America, also called Denali. The Waxing Crescent Moon is setting just above the horizon of the Alaska Range.

Aurora borealis lights up the winter night sky over Mt McKinley, highest mountain in North America, also called Denali. The Waxing Crescent Moon is setting just above the horizon of the Alaska Range. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

Page 2 of my complete guide to photographing the northern lights. We got started on Page 1 with a discussion on where you might find the aurora borealis, and then on scouting your locations during the day. Clothing to keep you warm in the cold polar winter and the importance of a good headlamp choice round out Page 1. We’ll start this page with a look at camera gear choices and considerations.
(more…)

How to photograph the aurora borealis – Part 1

Monday, November 21st, 2011
Photographing the Aurora borealis, Alaska.

Photographing the aurora borealis in September, surrounded by fall colors, Chugach Mountains, Glenn Highway, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

The aurora borealis is one of those experiences we can have that stay with us a long, long time. Not just in our minds and memories, but in our body, in our hearts, in our soul, in our very being; witnessing the aurora borealis stays with us in how we see the world around us. It’s a moving and powerful event, and I’m always grateful and humbled by the moment. It really is that incredible.

Photographing the aurora borealis, on the other hand, can be one of those frustrating and anxious experiences that similarly stay with us a long, long time; raises our blood pressure, causes depression, causes exhilaration, frostbite, tiredness, insomnia and too many other ailments to mention. It’s difficult, extremely challenging, and infuriating. It’s cold. It’s dark. The aurora borealis is often fleeting, ever changing, and virtually impossible to rigidly predict. It requires a clear, or nearly clear, sky. That means long hours of waiting, photographing, deleting, photographing, waiting, not photographing, shivering, mumbling, drinking coffee. It means fighting to stay awake, tearing your hair our wondering where is the best location to head toward, hours before even setting up a tripod. In short, it’s not easy.

This 3 part article is intended to help you plan for (and work around, best we can) some of the struggles and pitfalls that await. It’s still up to you, your camera and the gods of luck to actually bring home the images, but hopefully this article will help you with that. If you see any thing repeated in this article, figure that repetition probably suggests emphasis. Please feel free to add your own thoughts, questions, and so forth, in the comments section below. (more…)

Cold Weather Photography Clothing

Monday, November 21st, 2011
Snowshoeing, McCarthy, Alaska.

Snowshoeing on snow machine trail on Kennicott River, winter, McCarthy, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

The cold in Alaska, in the winter, is incredible. Its stillness, its silence, its depth, and the intimacy of really feeling alone in the frozen north woods is an experience like no other. it’s It’s almost as if the cold is some thing, some being itself, a tangible reality rather than a temperature. It’s a unique experience, and it’s not at all entirely bad – in fact, I love it. But I don’t love freezing my tail off. My friend Patrick Endres, longtime Alaska resident and a fantastic photographer says it best, “I like being in the cold, but I don’t like being cold”. It’s really an extraordinary experience, and I do look forward to the winter. But I don’t want to be cold; I want to be bundled up and cozy, and enjoy the cold from inside my insulation.

Photography in the cold is a tough gig; snowshoeing or skiing is rough when the mercury falls beneath minus 20, but doesn’t come close to trying to photograph in similar conditions, in my opinion. I haven’t found any activity that compares to photography; standing around, not moving much, trying to operate fiddly, frozen camera controls and tripods with fingers that refuse to move. I’ve crosscountry skied 10 miles and more at 45below, and I’ll take that any day over futzing with my camera at 30 below. When those mitts come off and my fingertips touch frozen metal, it burns like, well, like I don’t like it at all. So, if you’re headed to Alaska for some winter photography, such as for the Iditarod or to photograph the aurora borealis, hopefully this page might provide you some use.

Your winter clothing should align with the Three L’s: “Loft, Loose, and Lots” of it. That’s the key to warmth here. Big puffy down jackets, loose, not tight fit, and lots of clothes, head to toe = warm. Don’t skimp.

A good basic rule for cold weather clothing (and I mean, crazy, Alaska-winter cold, not 45 degrees F chilly) is a simple one; looser fits = better. Tighter fits, especially with footwear and handwear, are colder = NOT better. So keep that in mind when you order your boots, socks and gloves.

Comfort isn’t the bottom line here; at 40 below, comfort means warm. So buy your gear a little bigger than usual – a half size or so, if possible. Don’t go crazy, but don’t go with that sleek, skin-tight muscle shirt and form fitting, skin tight lycra pants you prance around in during the summer. Trust me. 🙂

The specific items list below is not meant to suggest these items are what you need, or even that these are what I think is best; it’s simply a look at what I have, or what I wish I had. Most of it works pretty well, and I’ve noted any items here that I think might not be the best choice. So, for now, my cold weather photography (i.e., not backcountry-travel) clothing goes a little something like this: (more…)

Image of the Month: Mount Sanford Photo

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
Mount Sanford at sunrise, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Sunrise over Mount Sanford, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

A quick post for while I’m away. I’m still off on the Malaspina Glacier expedition with Erin and Hig I mentioned earlier. I should be back soon, with tons of new images and stories from the trip. In the meantime, here’s the Image of the Month for November, 2011.

Mount Sanford on a gorgeous fall morning, taken back in September on our Fall Photo Tour. I hope you enjoy this photo.

Cheers

Carl

Image of the Month, Oct 2011 – Aurora borealis

Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Northern lights over Matanuska Glacier, Alaska.

Northern lights, or Aurora borealis, and the Chugach Mountains, near the Matanuska Glacier Glenn Highway, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

From a fall Photo Tour early September, we actually headed back out the night the trip ended, because we heard there was a big aurora borealis show forecast. Not far from the Matanuska Glacier we caught up with the northern lights. Always a treat to see.

Cheers

Carl

Northern Lights over Denali

Friday, March 11th, 2011
Aurora borealis and Denali, Denali State Park, Alaska.

Aurora borealis lights up the winter night sky over Mt McKinley, highest mountain in North America, also called Denali. Viewpoint from Denali State Park, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey folks

The highest mountain in North America, Denali, or Mt McKinley as its more officially known, of the Alaska Range are dwarfed by the Aurora borealis, spiralling overhead in the night sky.

What a treat it was to see this last night. Well worth waiting up for. It’s 10:45am right now, and I’ve only been home maybe 30 minutes. A long night, cold and windy, but some fantastic sights to see. Winter in Alaska can be long and cold and dark; but those things are quickly forgotten in the moment.

On another note, my thoughts and prayers go all the way out to those folks in Japan; I haven’t seen all the reports yet, but from what I understand, the situation is pretty horrible. I feel for you.

Cheers

Carl

Alaska Wildlife – Cow moose

Sunday, February 27th, 2011
A cow moose stands outside the house in Anchorage, Winter, Alaska. (Alces alces)

A cow moose stands outside the house in Anchorage, Winter, Alaska (Alces alces). Please click on the image here to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

A fun post.

After all the tromping around in the mountains and wilds of Alaska, carrying way too much weight and camera gear around the hills trying to photograph wildlife, I tried a new approach. Let the animals come to me! So here, taken from the window of the house, a cup of coffee in one hand and my camera in the other, is a cow moose. Anchorage, Alaska.

Now, I wonder if I can get this same technique to work on a pack of wolves!

Cheers

Carl

Images of the Year

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Hey Folks,

A short selection of images. 12 favorites from 2010.

Click on the thumbnails below for larger versions of each photo in the gallery. (more…)

Eagle Galleries redone

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Bald Eagle Portrait, Homer, Alaska.

3 adult Bald Eagles on perch, Homer, Alaska. (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

So, the next piece of news; I’ve finally redone my bald eagle galleries for the site. It’s a tedious chore, but SOOOO needs to be done. Soon (I hope) all the galleries will have the the same updated look, cleaner and easier to deal with, and the best thing — larger photos!

You can browse the bald eagle galleries below:
* Bald eagles

If you take the time to run through, please let me know if you see anything I need to edit, such as typos, broken links, etc, etc. It’s so easy to miss those little things, so please post something if you notice a glitch. I think they’re working OK.

This photo here is from my first trip to Homer, Alaska, and I had an absolute blast. I went with some good friends, from various parts of the country, and most of us hadn’t been to Homer to shoot the eagles before. We had such a good time together. There were virtually no other photographers around, and things were very different to how they became later on, in the last couple of years.

I’m sad to see the opportunity there come to a close, in some ways, but I’m also kinda glad it’s passed, too. Double-edged sword, I guess. I do miss all those birds, though.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos. Hopefully I’ll get those other galleries up before too long. Thanks.

Cheers

Carl

Backpacking Gear: A List

Sunday, October 24th, 2010
Hiking along the lateral moraine of Kennicott Glacier, near Mount Blackburn, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hiking along the lateral moraine of Kennicott Glacier, near Mount Blackburn, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Now THAT'S an ultra-light backpacking system. 🙂 Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

OK, here’s a list of my backpacking gear I thought I might put together, and have taken WAY too long to get it online. I would like to preface this post with a comment about gear; backpacking is NOT about gear, and I’m not a big advocate of the all too common push to make it about that.

Backpacking is about being ‘there‘. The gear can help facilitate doing that comfortably, but don’t think that this piece of gear or that piece of gear will magically turn a disastrous trip into a glorious one. And don’t think your pack will suddenly become unbelievably light because you buy an expensive down sleeping bag, and that you’ll now start prancing up over those mountains. Everything is part of a SYSTEM, and learning how to manage that system (including carrying it) is integral to having a good kit.

That said, here it is; hopefully, this list might be useful to someone wanting to look at what gear I use, or what backpacking gear they might want to look into if they’re heading to Alaska. It’s not at all a list of ALL the gear I have/use, but a general list of the gear I typically bring on a trip. (more…)

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Owner and guide Carl Donohue.

 

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