Polar bear walking across the frozen Arctic Ocean

February 20th, 2014 by Carl D
A curious young polar bear walks across the thin ice as the cold waters of the Beaufort Sea begin to freeze up in early Fall. Polar bear, Ursus maritimus, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.
A curious young polar bear walks across the thin ice as the cold waters of the Beaufort Sea begin to freeze up in early Fall. Polar bear, Ursus maritimus, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s probably a good time for another polar bear photo, don’t ya think?

This young fella was curious enough to venture out, albeit cautiously, over the think, newly formed ice of the Beaufort Sea, to come in for a closer look. I wanted to get a nice low angle, and give a sense of the expansive arctic setting behind him.

One tip I’ll offer wildlife photographers, and bear photographers in particular, is try as hard as you can to catch them with a front paw raised, and not the back paw. Most animals, and especially bears, just look awkward and clumsy with a back leg in the air. So rather than just keep my thumb on the hammer and fire away as a bear walks by or approaches, I tend to try to time a few short bursts to catch the pose I want.

This also helps with avoiding the dreaded “oh crap, I filled the buffer” problem as well. Just remember to shoot BEFORE you see that front paw come up – if you wait til the front paw is lifted, you’l be late. Anticipate and shoot. And practice.

Cheers

Carl


Muh muh muh, myyyyyy Corona – Aurora borealis

February 17th, 2014 by Carl D
Corona of the aurora borealis, Alaska
The aurora borealis corona, or Coronal Aurora borealis – directly overhead, photographed with a 50mm f1.4 lens. ISO 2000, aperture 1.4, s/s 1/3 sec. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

“Oooh, my little pretty one, pretty one,
When ya gunna give me some,
My Corona”

Hey Folks,

What a cool tune, eh?

This image of the aurora borealis corona was taken last March on one of the aurora borealis tours. Here’s to hoping we get a night like this one again. Absolutely incredible evening, and it went on and on and on and on …. all night long. I think we got home at something like 9am this morning. I remember we nearly missed breakfast at the hotel because they were closing it up when we rocked into town. Continue reading…


Northern lights and Wrangell Mountains

February 10th, 2014 by Carl D
The northern lights fill the sky over the Wrangel Mountains and Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
The northern lights fill the sky over the Wrangell Mountains and Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Winter in Alaska is a fun time; it’s a hard time for a photographer because we have to choose between shooting during the day time, and waiting out the nights for the northern lights. And then switching schedules back and forth as the weather and the northern lights predictions change.

So the last few nights I’ve spent mostly sitting around at night hoping to be in the right place at the right time. For the most part, instead I’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Shooting the northern lights is harder than most folks expect; shooting the northern lights with very specific compositions and scenes is even harder, because everything has to be just right. There are a few areas I have in mind for some northern lights images over the Wrangell Mountains, and so far, I’ve not gotten close. Every night the potential has been there, I’ve ventured out, only to be skunked. And few places can really skunk a photographer like Alaska can. Continue reading…


Image of the Month, Feb 2014; Backlit Brown bear at dawn

February 7th, 2014 by Carl D
A backlit brown bear on the shores of a Lake, at dawn. Brown bear (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
A backlit brown bear on the shores of a cool Alaska lake, at dawn. Brown bear (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

A few days late, sorry. Here’s the February “Image of the Month”, a brown bear at dawn, backlit by the soft warm light of the morning, with a light mist over the water. Sometimes, I swear, the bears seem to enjoy a pretty morning as much as we do.

As I do every winter, I’m looking forward to getting back to Katmai this coming fall for some great bear photography.

Cheers

Carl


Sleeping warm winter camping in Alaska

January 27th, 2014 by Carl D
Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Mountain Hardwear Ghost sleeping bag, Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s January, and Alaska can be a rough place to sleep outside during this time of year. Temperatures can easily be down below zero F, even into the minus 30’s and 40’s, or colder. So sleeping outside is not to be taken lightly.

Bring a good sleeping bag. A REALLY good sleeping bag. If you predict temperatures of zero (F), I’d go with a sleeping bag rated to minus 20 degrees F. I prefer a down sleeping bag over synthetic bags, but the key is a high quality, and well rated bag. If you have a good synthetic fill sleeping bag, use that. It’ll be heavier, and less compatible, but you can deal with that. You don’t want to have to deal with being cold.

Your bag is your last refuge against the cold. Don’t skimp on it. Bring “more” sleeping bag than you think you need.  I do like the goretex or similar shells for winter bags, and highly recommend them.

Bring a good sleeping pad. A REALLY good sleeping pad. Jake, above, is using (well, half using) an Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW, which I highly recommend if you’re not packing it into the backcountry. If you need to haul it (snowshoeing, skiing, backpacking, go with an Exped Downmat 7 or even the Downmat 9). An insulated pad insulates you against the cold snow underneath, where even the best sleeping bag won’t offer much protection – once you lie down in the bag and compress the insulation underneath you (be it down or synthetic), it offers little insulating value. So a high quality insulated pad makes a huge difference. You want it to be about an inch or more thick.

Although it’s not generally needed with a high quality sleeping pad like this, I often like to throw a hard cell foam pad under the inflatable. It adds a little extra insulation, but mostly a little protection against a leak or anything. It’ll definitely ad to the life of your sleeping pad. Unlike Jake, above, don’t slide off the sleeping pad. You’ll get cold. 🙂

Continue reading…


Tent Review – Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP Review

January 4th, 2014 by Carl D
Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP backpacking tent in Alaska.
My backpacking tent, the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP ultralight tent, sitting thigh on a ridge in the Chugach Mountains on our Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes trek, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, last summer. This tent LOVES this place! Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

My favorite tent for backpacking trips.

Some of you might have seen a few years back I raved about the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 backpacking tent. So why now, am I writing about it again? Why, other than to show you our killer campsite we call “The Mezzanine”, from the classic Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes trekking trip? Everybody loves The Mezzanine!

Well, one more reason its because it’s been upgraded, modified and changed, twice now in fact, so I thought I’d touch on a couple of things about the newer version of this tent, the Skyledge 2 DP.

Firstly, it has a new name. The DP is short for ‘Dry Pitch’. Meaning it’s possible to set the rainfly section of the tent up first, and then add the inner part of the tent afterward; a handy feature in the rain, for sure. The Mountain Hardwear bio reads “DryPitch™ fly-first pitching lets you set up the tent in the rain and stay dry”, which I think is a little misleading. You will still get wet. The inner part of your tent will stay somewhat drier .. but rarely will it remain completely dry. Still, it’s a handy feature that I’m glad to see Mountain Hardwear working on. Continue reading…


Image of the Month; January 2014 – Snowshoeing Caribou Creek

January 1st, 2014 by Carl D
Bob and Nancy pause for a photo while snowshoeing on the Caribou Creek Trail, in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Bob and Nancy pause for a photo while snowshoeing on the Caribou Creek Trail, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Hey Folks,

Welcome to the new year!

I thought we’d start of the fun this year with a quick photo from a place I’ll be headed to next week; Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. A week snowshoeing, skiing, sitting by the fire, watching out at night for some northern lights, enjoying good company, good food and a nice warm fire sounds like a GREAT way to start the new year. Continue reading…


Northern Lights & Winter in Arctic Alaska

December 17th, 2013 by Carl D
A stock photo of the northern lights rising over a small creek, with the Brooks Range mountains in the background, part of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
The northern lights rising over a small creek, with the Brooks Range mountains in the background, part of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

I am just now back from a trip to the arctic looking for the northern lights; 4 of us went north of Fairbanks, to the Brooks Range, and spent a dark, cold week rambling around the mountains, enjoying what is ordinarily an incredible place; in the winter, a unique and somewhat amazing experience.

The northern lights themselves dropped by for a visit each night; we were indeed fortunate. We had cloudy skies for part of just one night, and all the moonlight anyone might ever hope for to light up the foregrounds. In the arctic, the moon doesn’t really pass ‘overhead’, but circles around the sky, so though it’s not high in the sky, it stays out for quite a while.

We were also lucky with the weather; there was just enough wind around (particularly higher in the mountains) to keep things from getting too cold. Weird, huh? Wind (generally) keeps things warmer in the winter. On our final day, there was not the slightest breath of air, and the temperature dropped a lot .. hitting minus 40 right as we departed for the drive south. For the duration of our trip it had been (mostly) in the 0 to minus 20 range; Fahrenheit, of course).

Photography in the cold, at night, can be a challenge, but we were all well prepared, and managed to make some keeper images. I’ll write another post later about tips and ideas to alleviate some of the problems folks run into in such conditions. For now, I gotta catch up on some sleep.

Cheers

Carl

 

 


Image of the Month: Northern Lights

December 3rd, 2013 by Carl D
Northern lights in Alaska
Northern lights rising over the boreal forest, arctic Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Just finished photographing bald eagles, and I’ll be heading back up north to this area next week, again loping for the northern lights. Should be a gaggle of fun.

This was one of the most memorable nights I’ve had shooting the northern lights, in the middle of nowhere off the Dalton Highway, in minus 30 degree temperatures, wind blowing like crazy, and we had an absolute blast! You haven’t lived until you’ve stumbled around in the dark in the snow in the wind in the cold trying to take pictures.

For what it might be worth, I shot this photo at ISO 2000, f1.4, and a shutter speed of 5 seconds, with a 24mm lens.

I only have a space or 2 left yet for next March on the Aurora borealis photo tours, so drop me a note if you’re interested in coming along. I can’t guarantee we’ll see a display like this one, but we’ll do our best to be in the right spot if it happens!

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

Cheers

Carl


2013 – All For Glory: the Official trailer

November 14th, 2013 by Carl D

Hey Folks,

A fun little trailer for the annual “Year in Review” video, due for release sometime soon.

Enjoy!

Cheers

Carl


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