Here’s a photo from our trip last week to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Charlie was gracious enough to pose for me here on this little ledge, one gorgeous morning on the Iceberg Lake to Bremner Mines trip.
We were so lucky on this trip to get some nice weather; it’s not been a fantastic summer, weather-wise, so far, yet we had more sunny days than not on our hike. Charlie and his family, from Chicago, had somewhat of a mad rush to get here, flying directly from Chicago to Anchorage to McCarthy to Iceberg Lake; including a short, mad dash thru the streets of Anchorage to replenish gear when, upon arrival in Anchorage, they learned Charlie’s backpack hadn’t made the flight, and was still in Chicago. The bedlam settled when we arrived, after many hours of travel (for Charlie and family) at Iceberg Lake, on a gorgeous sunny evening. Continue reading…
And the Image of the Month for August 2010 is a photo of sunset over the University Peaks, just south of the Chitistone River. We’d backpacked down the Chitistone Canyon all day, set up camp after crossing the Goat Trail, had a GREAT dinner with superb views of Mount Bona (16 421′ high) and the University Range, and the light kept getting better and better. I’d long wanted to hike down this little creek to a plateau above the Chitistone River and shoot sunset there, and knew this would be a great opportunity to do so.
I couldn’t convince any of the hikers in our group to join for me the evening trek (2 miles one way), so I grabbed my camera gear after we’d finished dinner, and set out. Though this scene wasn’t my intended final destination, I loved the combination of clouds, deep, steep canyon walls, and the warm light hitting the distant unnamed mountain. I stopped and took a few photos before continuing on my way down to the plateau.
When shooting a scene such as this, with high contrast between the shaded depths of the steep canyon and the bright clouds and distant peaks (Mount Bona) I use either a Split Density filter or take multiple images of differing exposures and blend them together in the computer later. This image I used 2 split density filters, a 2-stop and a 3-stop. Handholding 2 filters is hard; handholding them when you don’t want them to align symmetrically is really hard. Lesson #1 – carry a Cokin filter holder.
The Goat Trail is the first route I ever hiked in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and is always a welcome treat for me to return to. This one was a night I’ll remember for along time. I returned to our high camp at around midnight. What a fantastic evening.
Here’s another image from our recent trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. this trip was simply awesome. A great group of folks, from Florida, Colorado and Washington, who all carried the most ingredient for a great trip – great attitude. Everyone really clicked, and we had a ton of fun; lots of laughs and good times.
This photo was taken on our 1st night out; we camped on a big alluvial fan that comes out of the mountains, on the west side of the Marsh Fork River. After dinner we hiked up the stream and climbed a small ridgeline for some amazing views back south, to the heart of the mountain range and the continental divide. The light was really happening, and I was pretty happy with a few of the images I made.
Afterward, the light began to fade and we hiked back toward camp. The sun began to poke through again, for one great show, and I saw this little miniature waterfall that I knew would make a great foreground. The light show only lasted a couple of minutes before high clouds to the north dulled the glow. By the time I’d rearranged this for a horizontal composition, the light was noticeably dimmer on the distant peak. Minutes later, the glow was gone.
This image was taken around 2:00am. Photography in the arctic summer is a challenge, shifting ones mental and body clock to the wee hours of the “night“, to capture the nicest light. Oftentimes I’ll shoot til later and go to bed around 4:00am, or later. They don’t call this the land of the midnight sun for nothing.
Here’s a photo below of Steve, from Colorado, shooting the following morning, around 4:00am. We’d gone to bed, got some rest, and then the sun came around the corner of the range to the north, and lit up the valley. I was up immediately, woke Steve, and we shot for a couple of hours before going back to bed. It’s an absolutely incredible experience to watch the mountains here, in the quiet hours of the “dawn“, and feel the arctic air start to warm. Magical doesn’t describe the experience.
What a blast we had! To view some of Steve’s fantastic work from this trip, visit his gallery here. He made some amazing images.
It’s really nice to have another serious photographer along on a trip like this, even the trip is not promoted as a ‘photography tour’ at all. Steve inspired and motivated me to work harder and longer, and to look more closely than I otherwise might. I learnt a lot from watching him shoot.
Watch this clip, destined to become a classic, to see a brief, sudden and welcome appearance by the great Usain Bolt; Usain pops up in the video and shows his classic ‘bow and arrow’ pose, while simultaneously unveiling some gorgeous new footwear. I managed to grab a few seconds of him on video before he raced out of sight.
I was trying to grab some footage of the Chitistone Valley in heavy fog, from the “Wolverine” landing strip, when Usain appeared. I believe this is the first time he’s visited Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, indeed Alaska itself. I’m sure he’ll make another appearance or 2 before the end of this season.
A Pacific Loon, photographed on a pond on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Taken at the end of our recent trip to ANWR, floating down the Canning River to the Arctic Ocean.
The final evening provided some great light, and some gorgeous Pacific loons (Gavia pacifica) to photograph. Loons are one of my favorite birds, really a beautiful bird, and it’s always a treat to photograph them.
This year we were fortunate to see Common loons, Red-throated loon and Pacific loons, but not the less common Yellow-billed loon. Maybe next summer we’ll be treated to the awesome foursome!
I’ll try to post something soon from our Skolai – Wolverine hike . Until then, I hope you enjoy this Pacific loon photo.
Here’s a shot from our recent trip down the Canning River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You can see we had a lot of fun, great spirits, great weather, spectacular scenery and a great, great group of folks. What more could we ask for?
Aufeis is a German word to refer to overflow ice, that typically melts out during the summer, and re-accumulates in the winter. It’s pretty common along most waterways in the Arctic. Here it provided a platform for some tom-foolery. Good fun all the way around.
Minutes earlier we’d been watching a mature bull caribou wander along the ridges of Aufeis; caribou often hang out on the ice to keep cool and stay away from the oft-present mosquitoes during summer’s brief madness. Fortunately this year the bugs were largely gone by the time of our trip, and we all had a great time with no insanity from the mosquitoes.
It’s summer time, and I don’t have much time to blog – but I’ll try to keep up with the Image of the Month. Here’s one from the north side of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Taken from Rock lake, at sunset, the light on the distant Wrangell Mountains was gorgeous.
Photo of the Month for June, 2010, is this photo of some folks hiking up at Hole in the Wall, near Skolai Pass, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I love the sense of scale this photo gives for the peak in the background. This is one of the peaks known as the 7 fingers, glacier-capped outcroppings towering above the tundra. Hole in the Wall is a classic old glacial formation, and a great place to walk and explore; I’ve spend many a day wandering around on the moraine, awestruck at the magnificent jagged cliff faces soaring above me.
This trip was a few years ago, and we had a grand time. The weather was, as you see here, unbeatable, and we all enjoyed the week we spent in Skolai Pass. We camped on an open ridge above the pass, before heading south to Chitistone Pass, where we camped and enjoyed the scenery. From Chitistone Pass, we ventured down to Russell Glacier, over into Chitistone Valley, and checked out the Goat Trail. Then we made out way back along the floor of Skolai Pass.
The big boulders in the foreground are called erratics; a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. They’re moved into place, carried by glacial ice , and deposited when the ice retreats. Sometimes they’re moved hundreds of miles by advancing glaciers; at Hole in the Wall, they were moved a mile or so. But a number of these large boulders technically aren’t really erratics, as they have fallen from the cliffs above. Massive, some of them are the size of a small house. The geology here is incredible.
I’m looking forward to getting back up to Skolai Pass this summer; it’s just one of “those” places that I can go back to every year and love it. It’s kinda like going home each summer. Each trip brings both new vistas and intimate views of the nooks and crannies, the secrets of Skolai. At the same time, seeing the features like Hole in the Wall and Russell Glacier again is a welcome treat. I love it.
We’ll be up at Skolai mid july this year, and I can’t WAIT!
Here’s a photo from a trip to southeast Alaska I took, of the Hubbard Glacier calving into Russell Fjord at Gilbert Point, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, near Yakutat. To watch a 250′ high wall of ice crash into the ocean is simply awesome. And I mean awesome like ‘inspires awe’ … absolutely jaw-dropping stuff.
The Hubbard Glacier is one of the few advancing glaciers in Alaska right now, as most are retreating under the glare of warming climate; the cycles of glaciers that calve into the sea are also dependent upon dynamics of the sea floor, as well as other complicated elements. The glaciers are often at various stages of a retreat-advance cycle, and the Hubbard is currently advancing. A decade or so ago it actually advanced across the very narrow neck of Russell Fjord, known as Gilbert Point, and blocked off the Fjord – drastically affecting the ecosystem there. The pressure built up in the Fjord eventually pushed back, and the glacier washed out. Continue reading…
I thought I’d post a quick promo here for a radio show I’ve been invited to join on lensflare-live. I’ll be talking with Greg Downing and EJ Peiker of naturescapes.net, a fantastic nature photography community and radio show host Dave Warner. The topics for discussion include wilderness and backpacking photography, art, conservation and environmental topics, as well as a discussion of a few images we’ll be presenting on the show.
I’m really talking forward to this conversation. Greg and EJ are photographers I’ve been a fan of for quite some time, and I really am looking forward to talking with them. Dave is a great photographer as well, so the discussion should be a lot of fun. If you have any questions regarding any of these subjects, feel free to join in the conversation online or by calling in. The show is scheduled to be broadcast at 9pm EST, Tuesday, May 4, 2010. You can listen to it here.
After we’ve finished, naturescapes.net will edit the broadcast down, remove all the “ahhh’s” and “uhhmmms” and long periods of silence, and present the discussion as a podcast. I’ll provide a link to there here as it becomes available.
The image above is from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). That seems particularly relevant in light of the horrific Gulf Coast Oil disaster. Hopefully we can learn something of the importance of ecosystems and fragility via this mess.
Please check out the radio show. It should be fun.