It’s sad that opening up the book on the history of guiding opens up the book on the history of colonization. It definitely does.
That being said, there were early frontier guides that were closer to native life, and some that wanted to destroy it.
Kit Carson (1809-1868) was in the camp of the former.
In the frontier era, many guides roamed the wilderness, yet none garnered as much admiration as Kit Carson. He never made it to Alaska, but he made it everywhere else. Renowned for his pivotal role in the USA absorbing California and New Mexico, in his later career Carson led the defense against Confederate attempts to seize the nascent American West. To delve deeper into these captivating stories of how our country relied on this man to create a bi-coastal nation, I recommend losing yourself in Hampton Side’s Blood and Thunder. Carson forged close bonds with numerous tribes, fully immersing himself in their languages and lifestyles.
A few years ago I spent a glorious week in Denali National Park and Preserve, camped out in the backcountry at one of my favorite spots to hang – a high ridge to the north of Denali, or Mt. McKinley as it was once officially known (see this post for a discussion concerning the name of the mountain).
After too many years and way too many footsteps across the tundra, I finally happened to be in the right place at the right time. Previous trips had me wet, cold, hungry, and wondering where this infamous mountain actually was (hidden, veiled behind the infernal clouds).
Mt. Sanford, Mt. Drum, the Copper River and the Night Sky. The moon rise to my left threw a nice soft light on the fog over the Copper River Basin. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
With a host of people heading north this winter/spring to photograph the aurora, I thought it might be of some interest to talk a little about the process of shooting photography at night; I know a lot of people have little experience with that, and it really can be a challenge at times. Particularly on a cold frozen night in Alaska when the northern lights start going crazy overhead.
So, the first thing I’d suggest, if you haven’t already, is read over my 3 part article on shooting the northern lights. There’s a downloadable PDF at the end of that article you can keep for future reference.
So, now that you’re prepared, consider the moment. It’s dark. It’s cold, maybe minus 20 degrees F; cold enough that your hands start to really feel it after a few minutes. It’s dark. You have a headlamp on, and that gives you a little bit of vision out to maybe 30-50 yards or so. After that, you can’t see too much at all. The aurora starts to fire up, and you want to shoot it.
You can’t see your foreground and composition. Its dark. You don’t even know if the foreground is worth shooting. It’s dark. You can’t walk around all over and use your headlamp to see, because (a) there isn’t time, (b) there are other people trying to shoot, (c) you don’t want to track up all the snow by stomping around in it. So setup your test shots. This is probably the most important part of the process. Set up and do your test shots.