Welcome to April! The Image of the Month for this month is a grizzly bear rubbing his head on a tree. I photographed this bear sleeping not long before I took this photo, and after he woke up, he strolled directly over to this small Black Cottonwood tree, and rubbed and scratched on it for quite some time. I got a few photos of him standing at full height, which is an impressive sight for a bear this size. I’d estimate him to be well over 9′ tall.
April is the month the bears typically will be waking up from their long winter hibernation, and start moving around again. Won’t be long before my sojourns into the woods will again require my can of bear spray in my pocket. This bear had just awoken, so I thought it might be a good photo of the month for April for that reason.
Bear hibernation is a pretty amazing phenomena. No other animal anywhere near the size of the grizzly can sleep an entire winter away, living off it’s fat reserves, stored up from a summer of eating. Some folks argue that grizzlies (and black bears) aren’t true hibernators, because they actually wake up during the winter, and their body temperatures don’t reach down to the temperatures of other (what we call) “true hibernators”, like the Arctic Ground Squirrel, etc. Other people contend that given it’s size and mass, the grizzly is probably the greatest hibernator on the planet.
However we refer to it, I’m not sure the grizzly cares.
Here is a photo from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge I took one evening, around 1am. These red fox kits were playing just outside their den, and I spent quite a bit of time, patiently trying to get close enough to photograph them. These foxes were pretty wary, and if I approached too quickly they’d duck down into their den. The interconnected network of burrows meant they could, and would, popup anywhere, often 50-60 yards away a few minutes later.
Red foxes appear to be moving further and further north with the warming climate; longer summers and less harsh weather in the winters means they’re able to survive where previously they didn’t. The red fox is larger than their arctic cousins, the Arctic fox, and are (apparently) starting to cause quite a dent in the population of arctic fox, in some areas. Each year I’ve been to the coastal plain I have seen fewer arctic foxes than the year before, and seen more red foxes than previously. Continue reading…
Here’s our Image of the Month for March 2010. Backcountry skiing on the Root Glacier one gorgeous spring day. This little blue pool of crystal clear water was simply too nice to pass up for a photo op.
Carrying a tripod allows me to set up for photos when I’m out and about by myself. I set up the shot, and visualize where I’d like to stand to make the composition. Sometimes standing a bit further away allows the photo to be more of a scenic shot, without the person being too dominant in the frame.
This is where a digital camera really helps, being able to review the shot in the LCD, as I’m not able to guess exactly where to stand. For example, I didn’t want my head here to merge with the horizontal line at the end of the glacier – base of the mountain in the distance, so it took a couple of tries to get it right.
Normally I wouldn’t leave quite as much room for the sky, but I wanted to give the image a bit more of an expansive feeling here, with more space. I also wanted to leave plenty of room for text, if the photo were ever to be chosen for a cover shot for a magazine or story. Continue reading…
One of the more challenging aspects of an Alaskan backcountry trek is river crossings. With the exception of the occasional Kenai Peninsula hike, all of these treks are off-trail, wilderness backpacking trips, and so there’s no easy way to get across the streams, creeks and rivers that meander through the mountains. A few tips that can be useful to heed:
1) For smaller streams, I prefer to cross one person at a time. If by chance someone in the group does stumble, it means we have one wet person to deal with. Everyone else in the group is safe and secure on shore. Things unravel quickly in the backcountry, and that happens most often when something small goes wrong. One person stumbles, takes a dip, someone else reaches to grab them, they go down, knock their partner off balance, and all of a sudden bedlam results. That’s how people get hurt. It can also mean everyone gets wet gear. A much simpler problem to deal with is getting one person out of a creek, drying them off, and loaning them some warm, dry gear that another person in the group has in their pack. One person falling is a hassle – a group falling can be a disaster.
2) For anything over knee-high, unbuckle your hip belt and sternum strap on the backpack. Continue reading…
Just a quick post to announce that spaces are filling up on the grizzly bear photo tours, scheduled for Fall, 2010. It’s also, perhaps, a good time to say check over the website, and see how you like the recent changes. The Grizzly Bear Photo Tour page is just one of the new additions, and that tour has already had a bunch of inquiries. I don’t want to sound like a car salesman here, so I won’t say ‘book quickly‘, but I do want to say, if you’re thinking about it, it might be worth at least sending a quick email to get your name on the list. That way I can at least put a temporary tentative hold on a space for you.
I’m also excited about a few other trips this summer, including a Mt Jarvis exploratory hike, and a few others you can see listed on the custom trips page.
I thought this video might be both entertaining and useful to visitors to the website. Here, Andy Seeger shows off his fashion-sense and creative ingenuity with ‘Shower Cap Hat’ – a cheap workable solution to protecting your camera gear from bad weather on backpacking trips. Backpacking is ALL about compromise; weight, bulk and space, durability, multi-use, etc … these are things to consider when packing for your trip.
Rather than carry an expensive and heavier camera rain cover, a cheap plastic shower cap fits perfectly. it’s lightweight, packable, durable, light and easily available. What’s more, as Andy says, you can even get water with it. 🙂 Continue reading…
A week or 2 through the winter boreal forest hoping to find wolves is always a treat – whether the wolves show themselves or not. So far, no luck – they remain the mystery.
But what a treat it is to hear their howls, or find their soft tracks in the snow, and to know they too sift through the boreal forest. To enter the winter boreal forest is to enter the realm of the wolf – the home of Canis lupus. Few creatures can quite so vividly engage our mind and spirit like the wolf – so rarely even seen, yet so enmeshed in our cultural histories and stories.
I’ve walked I don’t know how many miles and waited hours, days, hoping for a glimpse, Continue reading…
Here’s a short post with some tips for you on picking a campsite in the backcountry. Why a post about picking a campsite? I think it’s useful because many folks overlook this part of a trip, as most people are (typically) so used to backpacking and hiking on trails in the Lower 48 states that it doesn’t really occur to them until it’s time to set up a tent. And by then, it’s too late.
Your campsite is your home, albeit ever so temporarily, and it’s well worth taking a couple of steps toward setting up home for the evening in a setting that you enjoy. Backpacking all day with a heavy load through rugged but beautiful mountains is hard work, and an important part of the trip, to us, is enjoying a great campsite. What makes a great campsite?
Firstly, it needs to be “low impact.” Essentially, low impact campsites are those that don’t leave undue stress on the landscape, or on other visitors to the park, both while you’re camped there and after you’re gone. There are a number of elements that are important, and I’ll stress a few of them here (this is not a comprehensive list). Continue reading…
I’ve been crazy busy trying to get the website overhauled – I hope you enjoy the new design. Fortunately, I’m a better photographer and backcountry guide than I am web coder! 🙂
Here’s a video I shot in Katmai National Park and Preserve, of a family a bears fishing in Brooks River while another young bear wanders around the scene – the young cubs get a little distraught, but ole mom is pretty undisturbed about it all. If you’re not a member of Facebook and can’t see the video, you can view the video on Youtube here.
Anyway, I thought I’d post this here just to keep in touch, and look forward to our Grizzly Bears in the Fall phototour coming in 2010. I’ve just added that html page, so be sure to check it out. I have 2 slide shows on there of new grizzly bear photos.
It’s always nice when a magazine editor wants your photo for their story, and you get published. But it’s WAY nicer when you get published in a magazine you enjoy, read and value. This image posted here is in the current edition of backpacker magazine, page 65 – full page vertical, which is nice. The image accompanies an article on backpacking “the Goat Trail”, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. This was the first route I ever hiked in Wrangell-St. Elias, and definitely a favorite of mine, so having my image chosen to accompany the story represents much more than just another published photo and a check to me.
It’s also cool for me because a few of my friends are published in the same edition of the magazine. It’d be remiss of me not to mention Bret Edge, and Ron Niebrugge, all of whom are photographers I admire. T Continue reading…