Google Earth; the NEW navigation?

November 28th, 2011 by

Hey Folks,

One topic I thought I might write about here that readers might enjoy has to do with navigation; every backcountry traveler has  had issues with getting lost, even if only briefly, and being unsure of direction. So we learn how to read a compass and topographic map. And w learn how to pay attention to our terrain and landscape. We learn about geology and landform features to help us navigate. We learn how to pay attention to the sky, and the sun. Some of us even look skyward after dark and learn to read the constellations.

More recently, we’ve acquired and learned GPS technologies, for pinpoint accuracy, and for better navigation in adverse situations (clouds and fog, flat, featureless terrain, etc).  But even this amazing GPS stuff is years old now. So what’s the “new” navigation technology? …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Tips for aurora borealis photography – part 3

November 21st, 2011 by
Northern lights, over the Copper River, and Mount Sanford, Mount Drum and Mount Wrangell, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Northern lights, over the Copper River, and Mount Sanford, Mount Drum and Mount Wrangell, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Part 3 of my complete guide on aurora borealis photography. So far, on Page 1, we’ve covered the initial stuff. Finding the aurora borealis, scouting your locations during the day to find potential composition sites, what clothes you need to keep warm and comfortable, the importance of bringing along a good headlamp.

Page 2 addresses the question of what camera gear you need when photographing the northern lights, and what camera settings are most useful. Page 2 also covers a broader range of issues you’re likely to run into, like how to find critical focus in the dark northern sky. Page 3, to wrap things up,  begins with some thoughts on composing your aurora borealis photos. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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How to photograph the northern lights – part 2

November 21st, 2011 by
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.
…. Read the rest of this entry » »

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How to photograph the aurora borealis – Part 1

November 21st, 2011 by
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. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Cold Weather Photography Clothing

November 21st, 2011 by
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: …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Carrying a load

November 12th, 2011 by
Hig, Katmai, Erin and Lituya, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hig (carrying Katmai) and Erin (carrying Lituya) walk along the shore of a small lake at the edge of the Malaspina Glacier, looking north toward Mt. St. Elias and the Saint Elias Mountain Range.Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s another shot from the trip recently down along the coastline. This photo was one of my first days on the hike with hig and Erin, and their 2 children Katmai (wearing his “Prince-pants”, and carried here by Hig, on the left) and Lituya (whom Erin is carrying). What a treat it was to be invited to join this great family on their adventure! So, on this particular morning, we wanted to go and explore the edges of the Malaspina Glacier, and enjoyed a gorgeous morning hike up over the moraine and out on to the ice. The farther reaches of the glacier provided spectacular views of nearby Mt. St. Elias (pictured) and the Saint Elias Mountain Range, and the amazingly expansive view over the Malaspina. Incredible place.

It was really cool to hike with Erin and Hig, both accomplished backcountry travelers, but particularly to do so and accompany them with their 2 young children. Katmai is nearly 3, and Lituya is about 8 months old. Toddlers like this are always fascinating, but watching such young kids experience the wilderness was great fun.

What struck me most, I suppose, was the thought of how great it is that 2 young parents are here spending 24 hours a day with their children. Not too many parents do I know, or know of, ever do something like this, and it was really fun to observe. Almost every waking moment of their day Erin and//or Hig engaged their children, for 2 months. The kids had a blast, especially young Katmai, who soaked up the beach, the mountains, the views, the dirt, my peanut butter, any chocolate within a half mile, and the sunshine whenever he could. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Backpacking Wrangell – St. Elias’ coastline

November 9th, 2011 by
Backpacking on the coast, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Setting out for a month long backpack along the coastline of Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Wow; what a cool trip this last one was. A month along the coastline and borders of the Malaspina Glacier in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park’s southeastern reaches.

This photo is my first night on the beach, right after the air taxi departed, I shouldered the heavy pack, posed for an image, and set off down the beach to find a campsite. Dark comes quickly this time of year in Alaska.

I caught up with friends Erin and Hig from Ground Truth Trekking, and their 2 kids Katmai and Lituya, the following afternoon. I spent most of the rest of my trip with them, and then the last 10 days or so in the Icy Bay area, trying to get a nice sunset photo of Mt. St. Elias from that area. Seemed like things were still getting going when before I knew it, the month was over and I had to fly back to the city. Time flies, eh? …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Image of the Month: Mount Sanford Photo

November 1st, 2011 by
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

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Back in a month

October 13th, 2011 by
Backpacking in Chitistone Canyon, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Backpacking down the Goat Trail, Chitistone Canyon, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

So now the “season” has officially ended, I want to thank everyone that came out this year for such a fun summer/fall. It’s always a treat to see familiar faces, those who’ve returned yet again for another Expeditions Alaska trip, thank you. And for all those who took their first trip with us this year, thanks so much, and I sincerely hope you had a great time here. Thank you.

So now, it’s time for me to take off and explore some more. I’m taking 4 weeks to join up with Erin and Hig, of Ground Truth Trekking, for part of their ‘Life On Ice’ adventure, down around the Malaspina Glacier and the Lost Coast of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, a little travelled part of the world for sure. I’m super excited about this trip,  for a number of reasons, one is simply to spend a month in the backcountry. I’m also stoked to join up with Erin and Hig, great people with a wealth of experience and wisdom to learn from. That’ll be a great experience. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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Grizzly bear photo tour

October 7th, 2011 by
Brown bear standing, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Brown bear, Ursus arctos, walking upright down Brooks Lake near the footbridge, first light of a cool, foggy morning. Brown bear, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Just back from a fantastic 2 weeks in Katmai National Park on our Grizzly Bears in the Fall Photo Tour. What a great way to wind up the season!

This year we had a challenging but rewarding trip; there were definitely fewer bears than in some recent years (still more than 45 bears along the river), but some great weather, light and conditions helped us to all make some nice images.

This photo I have to say a big thank you to one of the folks on week #2, Chris, a Brit now living in San Diego. I was loaded down with my 500mm and D300s on my tripod, and my D700 and 70-300m over my shoulder. We had moved off the river a little to give a passing bear some room, when this scene appeared behind us. Trying to stumble thru 4′ tall grass, hummocks and tussocks and wet marsh without busting my tail was a bit of a mission, and Chris kindly offered to hold my 500mm for me, so I could step over the ground easier and snag a shot before it was too late. Thanks Chris, I appreciate it. …. Read the rest of this entry » »

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