Sea Kayaking with Harbor Seals

September 6th, 2013 by Carl D
A slow, careful approach allowed us to get up close and personal with these Harbor Seals on our Sea Kayaking trip.
A slow, careful approach allowed us to get up close and personal with these Harbor Seals on our Sea Kayaking trip. Please click the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Another photo from our July sea kayaking trip to Icy Bay. After a great day paddling across the bay, hiking along the edge of the Karr Hills and taking a close look at the Yahtse Glacier, we paddled back toward camp and found Harbor seals .. lots of Harbor Seals. There are an estimated 3500 harbor seals in Icy Bay, and we saw plenty this afternoon.

It seemed like every other ice floe had a small family of seals lazing upon it, resting on the ice in the sun. Though any of them are somewhat skittish, because they’re so NOT used to human visitors, we had our share of seals that allowed us a closer look.

One interesting aspect of the wildlife ecology here is the prevalence of Harbor seals yet complete absence of orcas, a major predator of the seals. I’ve never heard of anyone, ever, seeing an Orca in Icy Bay; for some reason they just don’t come into the area. As a result, the seals are abundant, and somewhat casual, less wary than they can be elsewhere.

I shot a few video clips of the seals on the icebergs, as well as a number of still photos, as well. It really helps to have such relatively calm waters to sea kayak in when photographing, and Icy Bay is great in that regard. Even though some times its windy here, generally the water is reasonably calm and protected; great sea kayaking.

Heading off for a Brown Bear Photo Tour soon; I’ll maybe catch some more harbor seal photos on that trip, as we’ll be along the Katmai Coast. Big fun!

Cheers

Carl


Image of the Month; Sept 2013

August 30th, 2013 by Carl D
Sea kayaking in Icy Bay, with Mount St. Elias rising in the background, 18 008' high above the sea. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
Sea kayaking in Icy Bay, with Mount St. Elias rising in the background, 18 008′ high above the sea. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Welcome back! I know I might’ve missed a few months here recently; it’s been tough to get time to blog lately. This month’s image, from a recent trip Sea Kayaking in Icy Bay Trip, is one reason why I haven’t posted anything recently.

We were lucky enough to have some amazing weather this summer – 5 days in Icy Bay with a backdrop like this show what I mean. Seb and his partner Lauren flew all the way to Alaska from France to see Mt. St. Elias. I tried to point out to him here he was looking in the wrong direction; that it was right behind him!

Heading back out soon. I’ll try to post again before I go.

Cheers

Carl


Image of the Month: April 2013

April 8th, 2013 by Carl D
The aurora borealis streaks through the sky over the boreal forest of sub-arctic Alaska.
The aurora borealis streaks through the sky over the boreal forest of sub-arctic Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

After a great month of March, I’m finally getting around to catch up on the blog. We had a great month, skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and photographing the aurora. For the most part, the weather was fantastic, and all the trips went well.

This shot is from one awesome night we had up on the Dalton highway; Minus 24 degrees, but well worth sticking it out. We had a few quiet nights, but some really dynamic displays as well. Good times! Thanks to everyone for coming out and enduring the cold!

Cheers

Carl


Image of the Month: March 2013

March 1st, 2013 by Carl D
Brown bear at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
Brown bear at Hallo Bay, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Image of the Month for March, 2013, is a brown bear from Hallo Bay last year on the Coastal Brown Bear Photo Tour. 2 spaces are available for the tour this year, scheduled for mid-September. Drop me a note if you’re interested.

Cheers

Carl


Image of the Month: Feb 2012

January 29th, 2013 by Carl D
A sunset over hiking tracks along the beach of Wrangell St. Elias National park and Preserve, Alaska

Hey Folks,

From a walk along the beach one day. The sunset was awesome, I’d setup camp nearby, and my tracks in the sand made a nice subject for the photo.

The rolling waves were a nice soft background for sleeping this night. The tide rolled in and by morning, the beach was trackless again.

Enjoy.

Cheers

Carl


Nikon Coolpix L22 – Backpacking Photography Gear

January 22nd, 2013 by Carl D
On our Bremner Mines to Iceberg Lake trek, Amy and Cindy take a quick break before we ventured down to the glacier.
On our Bremner Mines to Iceberg Lake trek, Amy and Cindy take a quick break before we ventured down to the glacier. Photo taken with Nikon Coolpix L22..

Hey Folks,

Just editing some of my files from this past summer, and I ran across this picture from our August Iceberg to Bremner Mines trek. I shot this photo with my little Nikon pocket camera, a Nikon Coolpix L22. I started carrying a point and shoot (P&S) this summer, for the first time in I don’t know how long; too long!

It’s definitely nice to have something handy and accessible, without trying to deal with a larger SLR hanging from a strap while hiking. I generally carry my SLR or SLRs inside my backpack, stashed away where they won’t get (a) damaged and/or (b) left behind quite so easily. It’s SO easy while backpacking to stop and take a quick break, put something down, and walk off without it. That sucks when it’s a can of bear spray or a Nalgene, but it REALLY sucks when it’s something like an SLR, and insanely expensive.

So this summer I hiked with a trusty little Nikon Coolpix L22 in my shirt pocket – the perfect size for a P&S camera. I miss the image quality, of course, when I get home to view the images, but I mostly miss the functionality of the camera in the field. This could well be simply because I’m not as familiar with that camera as I should be, and so I just “point and shoot”, rather than fussing with trying to make some kind of manual controls. There were a few times when I really thought “man, I wish this camera would let me do x-y-z” – which of course I could easily have done if I’d had the SLR in my hands. Continue reading…


Get Your Boots On

January 16th, 2013 by Carl D
Assorted footwear for backpacking and hiking
Assorted footwear for backpacking and hiking. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hiking and backpacking boots in Alaska

A backpacking blog with no post about hiking boots? What gives?

Hiking boots are one of those subjects that are SO subjective that it’s invariably a much lengthier conversation than a blog post might, or should, be. Different boots fit different people well, and different boots fit different situations differently. I can suggest what works well for me, in situation x-y-z, and that pair of boots might be completely inappropriate for you in the same situation. or, they might be completely inappropriate for me in situation a-b-c.

So it’s extremely difficult to try to write a ‘general’ idea about boots. I’ll give it a shot.

Materials

Leather vs synthetic. The biggest question most start with is “leather boots versus synthetic”. Full leather boots will typically tend to be more durable, provide a little better ankle support (though I have doubts about how much), be heavier and more expensive. If you backpack off-trail a lot, carrying a heavy load, and want a pair of boots that will last a long time, my suggestion is a leather pair of boots. But, if you hike mostly on trail, don’t carry a big heavy pack very often, and don’t mind replacing your boots more frequently, synthetic boots are often a good choice. Continue reading…


2013 Alaska Bald Eagle Photo Tour

January 9th, 2013 by Carl D
A tight headshot portrait of an adult bald eagle near Haines, Alaska. Haliaeetus leucocephalus.
A tight headshot portrait of an adult bald eagle near Haines, Alaska. Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Photographers, think about heading on up to Alaska in November, 2013 and join me for the bald eagle photo tour there. It’s a weeklong trip, based out of Haines, Alaska, all accommodation and ground transport included, and we’ll spend the week shooting the world famous bald eagle congregation. Every fall, as many as 3500 bald eagles may show up to the Chilkat River area to feed on a late salmon run. While most of the rivers in Alaska are freezing over by that time, warmer ground water from a couple of nearby springs keep parts of the Chilkat and neighboring rivers open, and the bald eagles drop by for a feast.

This photo tour is also, for those so inclined, a photo workshop, where I’ll teach and discuss some techniques to help improve your photography; particularly we’ll look at wildlife photography subjects, such as tracking and shooting fast moving and flying subjects. We’ll look at in the field practices that involve trying to maximize your shooting opportunities on the ground; how to be in the right place at the right time.

The bald eagles here offer us a variety of photo opportunities, from close up headshots and portraits to action shots of bald eagles fighting and fishing, soaring against spectacular mountain backdrops and trying to create some of those grand “animal in the landscape” photos. Continue reading…


Alaska Winter Driving and Travel Information for Photographers

January 6th, 2013 by Carl D
Winter travel, a snow-laden pickup truck on the McCarthy Road, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.Winter travel, a snow-laden pickup truck on the McCarthy Road, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
Winter travel, a snow-laden pickup truck on the McCarthy Road, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

This year (2013) seems to definitely be the year that photographers want to head north to photograph the northern lights here in Alaska; the number of websites that have suddenly added an “Alaska Northern Lights Photo Tour” to their schedule seems to have tripled in about 6 months.

That, and considering the number of photographers heading up here on their own, or with friends, to photograph the Aurora borealis this winter/spring means we’ll very likely see dozens, if not hundreds, of really, really amazing northern lights photographs from this coming season. I know I’m sure looking forward to seeing all the great images.

Given this influx of folks from “down south”, I thought a good subject to write about, one that I hope many people will find useful, might be winter driving and winter travel in Alaska. Coming, as I did when I moved here, from a background of very little real “winter conditions”, I had a lot to learn when I arrived, and some of that might be helpful for others headed this way. Not just about the physical driving on snow and ice. What to bring with me. What hazards I’m likely to encounter. And on and on. Continue reading…


Calendar Winners and Mount Blackburn

January 1st, 2013 by Carl D
Mt. Blackburn, the Root and Kennicott Glacier, wintertime, sunset, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Just a quick post to announce the calendar winners from the recent giveaway are Natalie, David and Jason. Happy New Year to these three, and the calendars are in the mail. Congrats all, and thanks to everyone for your entries. Tons o’ fun!

The name of the mountain was Mount Blackburn, from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The photo in this post was taken from the other side (east) of the mountain, winter solstice a few years ago. Mount Blackburn stands 16 391′ high, and is the 5th highest peak in the United States, the tallest in the Wrangell Mountains.

Cheers

Carl


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