Nellie Juan Glacier Dwarf Fireweed 1

Nellie Juan Glacier Dwarf Fireweed 1

I photographed this rugged scene while cruising Prince William Sound with my dad in late June. I had scouted Nellie Juan Fjord several days earlier in rainy conditions and observed a few dwarf fireweed blooms high above the tideline on the granite cliffs. In order to get to this location, I woke up well before sunrise, navigated my inflatable boat through hazardous submerged rocks guarding the entrance to the fjord, motored through tons of floating ice, and finally tethered my inflatable to the base of a soaring rock wall. I then scrambled high above the water to get to this precarious perch. Once I was in place, I was fortunate to experience perfect landscape photography conditions with clear sky to the east and a few clouds hovering over the mountains to the west. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, 17-40mm f4 lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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Harriman Glacier Dwarf Fireweed 1

Harriman Glacier Dwarf Fireweed 1

During my trip to Alaska last month, I returned to Harriman Fjord in Prince William Sound with ambitions of photographing wildflowers blooming near the tidewater glaciers. I was very lucky, as my timing was perfect and the weather was spectacular. I had seen a few images of this patch of dwarf fireweed from Alaska photographers that I admire and easily located it during my first reconnaissance of the fjord in my inflatable. I returned the next morning and was rewarded with beautiful sunrise light and clouds. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 3-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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Heather Island Dwarf Fireweed Sunset 1

Heather Island Dwarf Fireweed Sunset 1

I created this bold image of dwarf fireweed at sunset while visiting Columbia Bay with my small boat Serenity a few weeks ago. This was the second time that I have visited this area this year, after the dramatic and wild nature of the place got under my skin back in May. It is now one of my favorite locations that I have visited in Alaska. I experienced much better weather during this visit and there were loads of wildflowers, especially the hearty dwarf fireweed. This plant grows in areas recently exposed by glacial retreat. This particular patch of flowers was located on the northwest tip of Heather Island along the edge of the old glacial moraine bar. Before settling on this composition, I ran around like a madman trying to find the best group of wildflowers that would compliment the dramatic sunset that was unfolding. During brief but dramatic moments like this, a photographer must be comfortable with his/her equipment and methodically use the skills that have been mastered through years of practice. I photographed this scene with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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Columbia Glacier Sea Otters 1

Columbia Glacier Sea Otters 1

While visiting the Columbia Glacier last month, I spent a lot of time photographing sea otters, or should I say, trying to photograph sea otters. They are very shy creatures, and difficult to approach. I had a Canon 500mm f4 IS lens with me, but that lens is way too heavy to hand-hold while motoring around in my inflatable all day. Fortunately, I also had my trusted Canon 400mm f4 DO IS lens, which is much lighter. When combined with my Canon 7D and 1.4X tele-converter, this set up becomes the equivalent of a 900mm lens. I prefer marine mammal images that are photographed from as close to the water as possible. This yields a much better sense of location plus a softer background than images that are taken from higher up on larger boats. This mother and pup kept an eye on me the entire time, which gave me the eye contact that I prefer when photographing wildlife. Keep in mind that I was piloting my inflatable with my other hand while also trying to compose this picture. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

In case you missed it, please check out my sea otter article from this trip that were recently published in the UK’s Daily Mail.

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Columbia Glacier Reflection 1

Columbia Glacier Reflection 1

While visiting Alaska last month, I used my 22′ C-Dory Serenity to cruise from Whittier to the Columbia Glacier. I then spent a week anchored in Jade Cove located on the southeastern side of Columbia Bay during which I used my inflatable to explore the area. I spent much of my time photographing adorable sea otters during the day and then glacier landscapes at sunrise and sunset. I have had to learn to photograph in cloudy conditions in Alaska. Most of the time this is ideal for wildlife, but not so desirable for dramatic landscape images. However, just because it is cloudy doesn’t mean that there aren’t any images to be had. This image of stranded glacial ice on the moraine bar at low tide is a perfect example of creating an image in murky light conditions. Photographing the deep blues in icebergs requires overcast light and I took advantage of the calm, shallow water for a reflection. I still had to wait patiently for a perfect mirror reflection for over an hour before I was eventually successful. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 ZE lens, and Singh-Ray 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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Columbia Glacier Sea Otter 1

Columbia Glacier Sea Otter 1

I have spent a lot of time photographing sea otters in Alaska and California. Most of the time they are quite skittish, if not outright impossible to photograph. However, they can be adorable when they allow me to get close enough to take their picture. One of the unique things about the sea otters of Prince William Sound is that they frequently haul out to rest on the icebergs calved off of the tidewater glaciers. I had never seen this behavior before, so I was excited to have the opportunity to photograph them resting on the ice during my visit to the Columbia Glacier. Even while using my big lens, I still need to get pretty close to create an image. Most of the time they see me coming in my inflatable from 1/4 mile away and dive. I was getting sick of sea otters after many days of this type of frustration. Fortunately, my effort finally paid off when I photographed this large male who was more concerned about his nap than my inflatable with 3 photographers approaching him. When he finally sat up to take a look at us, not only did he look straight into my lens, but I also like how he placed his paws on the ice. I created this image by hand-holding my Canon 7D and 400mm f4 DO IS lens while also carefully navigating my 12′ inflatable through the ice. This image is a single-exposure which was slightly cropped and required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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Columbia Glacier Sunrise 1

Columbia Glacier Sunrise 1

During the second-half of my recent Alaska trip, I used my 22′ C-Dory Serenity for the first time this year. I departed Whittier for a week-long cruise with a plan to visit the Columbia Glacier located in the northern part of Prince William Sound. WOW! This was one of the most extreme locations that I have ever photographed. The Columbia Glacier has been the fastest retreating tidewater glacier in Alaska and one of the fastest in the world since the late-1970s. It has been heavily studied since it began retreating from its old moraine bar and the glacial models that were developed have subsequently been applied to other retreating glaciers throughout the world. I’ve photographed stranded icebergs in Glacier Bay National Park and Iceland, but nothing prepared me for the immensity of this glacial basin so utterly choked with ice. Using my 12′ inflatable boat, I was barely able to penetrate a few hundred yards into the ice on the eastern side of the basin. I have to admit that I was initially so overwhelmed by the place that I could not figure out what to photograph. After some scouting on the first morning of my visit, I discovered this scene. I was also exhausted from not sleeping because I had motored most of the night due to my late departure from Whittier the day before, plus the early glow of sunrise started at 4am. I photographed some marginally interesting light early this morning, but I prefer this image when the mountains became visible in the distance once the clouds lifted. All of this ice was concentrated against the old moraine bar and then stranded as the tide retreated. I photographed this scene with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 28mm f2 ZE lens, Singh-Ray LB Warming polarizer, and 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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Mt Fairweather Lenticular Aerial 1

Mt Fairweather Lenticular Aerial 1

BLECH! That is exactly what I felt like doing during my recent aerial shoot of Mt Fairweather. My pilot gave me ample opportunities to back out of the flight. He told me that even though the weather was clear in Haines that it was going to be a bumpy ride over Glacier Bay National Park to the outer coast. I repeatedly assured him that I was an experienced photographer who was not afraid of anything. I was wrong.

While the initial flight went smoothly, the enormous lenticular cloud over the summit of Mt Fairweather in the distance was indication that it was going to get a lot more interesting. I was disappointed that I was not going to photograph the summit, but my compensation was this dramatic multi-layered cloud. I also anticipated that my earlier photos were going to have the best light since the sunset was going to be prematurely blocked by marine clouds on the horizon. As promised, the flight eventually became much rougher as we flew over the highest mountains en route to the outer coast. As we worked the small plane into position to start taking pictures, I looked down 14,000 feet to Lituya Bay and reminisced about the week that I spent there photographing wildflowers in June 2009. I opened the window every few minutes, but the combination of cold air rushing in and turbulence made me regret not having taken a Dramamine earlier. The prominent ridges and shadows beneath the mountain appealed to my vision of how I wanted to photograph the mountain. I had to concentrate like never before in order to open the window and use my camera through the hard-banking and bumps. Physically, this was one of the most challenging photos that I have created, but I am pleased with the results.

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Smith Glacier Crevasse 1

Smith Glacier Crevasse 1

I created this image during my first incredible but brief voyage on Prince William Sound in Alaska last month. I motored my boat from Whittier to the head of College Fjord for a few days and was blown away but the photographic potential. I anchored in Tuition Cove near the Yale Glacier and used my inflatable to explore the area. One morning, I navigated my way through the iceberg choked fjord to the the Smith Glacier with the ambition of photographing the Harvard Glacier at sunrise. I got skunked on that one, but I was thoroughly enamored with the area so I turned my attention to the intimate landscape details of these crevasses.

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Mt McKinley & Mt Foraker Sunset Aerial 1

Mt McKinley & Mt Foraker Sunset Aerial 1

During my recent Alaska trip, I was able to see Mt McKinley almost everyday due to the perfect clear weather. To see the mountain even 1 day is very rare, let alone for 10 days straight. My normal landscape images from the ground were just not very exciting, so I hired a small plane 3 times with various friends in order to fly over the Alaska Range at sunset and sunrise. I did not get the sunset image that I was after on my first flight, but I figured out exactly where I wanted to return to shoot on my second flight. I liked this location because I was slightly back from Mt McKinley (left) and Mt Foraker (right) and able to line them up with these repetitive ridges giving the image some depth rather than just a simple mountain portrait.

I created this image while hand-holding my Canon 5DmkII and Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 ZE lens with the airplane’s window open so that I could shoot without the glass obstructing my view. My camera body shoots 4fps. If I hold down the shutter release button I get about 12 images before I fill-up the camera’s memory buffer. With my Sandisk 16GB Extreme CF memory cards, I can photograph almost 600 images before my card is full. That comes out to only 2.5 minutes of actual shooting before I fill-up the card! Over the course of almost 3 hours of flying that is a minimal amount of time. There is a lot of teamwork and communication involved between me and the pilot in order for me to create an aerial image like this. Of course, when I am back home I then have to edit 3000 images of the exact same thing looking for minor variations to find the image with which I am happiest.

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