Outdoor Photographer February 2012 Discover Alaska Wildlife Article

Outdoor Photographer February 2012 Discover Alaska Wildlife Article

I was traveling all of December, so forgive me for not having posted any new blog updates for awhile. However, I am excited to share that Outdoor Photographer published my “Discover Alaska Wildlife” article in the February issue! In my article, I give lots of advice about where and how to photograph many of Alaska’s most sought after animals. I especially like the opening full page image of the lynx that I encountered while leaving Denali National Park last July. I have dedicated most of my last 5 summers to photographing Alaska, and look forward to another productive summer up north starting in May. Please let me know if you read that article and what you think.

Barter Island Polar Bears 26

Barter Island Polar Bears 26

I was very happy with my first encounters with polar bears while co-leading my Polar Bear Photography Tour this fall. These amazing creatures are incredibly photogenic and life-changing to see in the wild. I’m currently updating my website with information about next year’s tours, but for anyone that is interested our scheduled dates are September 24-27, September 28-October 1, and October 2-5. The cost will be $5400 all inclusive from Fairbanks, except for the optional $175 per boat ride paid directly to our native guides. We are also able to offer a multiple tour discount to anyone that is interested in extending their photographic opportunities by joining back-to-back tours.

During this year’s tours, my clients and I photographed these two-year old cubs playing in the Arctic Ocean from the safety of our native guide’s boat. They appeared to be having a ton of fun as they played with each other for several hours. Their interactions were frequently so comical that we all chuckled out loud. We were also fortunate to be able to photograph them in beautiful golden sunlight. I created this image with a Canon 1DmkIV and my 400mm f4 DO IS lens. It is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Kuliak Pink Salmon 1

Kuliak Pink Salmon 1

I spent 3 long days attempting to photograph brown bears fishing underwater while visiting Kuliak Bay. I did not succeed. However, I had 6 opportunities where a bear sniffed the back of my underwater camera rather than the front. If I were a cartoon, I would have had one of those bubbles over my head with something like !@#$%^&%$#@* inside. Oh, well, I can try again in a few years. With my underwater camera positioned in the river all day, I took a lot of pictures of the salmon swimming in front of it. This is my favorite image of the mostly pink salmon with a few sockeye mixed in. I really like the reflection of the salmon on the surface of the water as well as the beautiful green color. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens inside my Aquatech 5DmkII housing with a Aquatech 8″ wide-angle dome port which I remotely triggered with a PocketWizard in an Aquatech PocketWizard housing. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Kuliak Brown Bear 1

Kuliak Brown Bear 1

This is my most successful wide-angle brown bear image from my August expedition to the Katmai Coast. I spent 4 days in Kuliak Bay trying unsuccessfully to photograph brown bears fishing underwater. For most of the day, my underwater camera system was submerged on a tripod with the PocketWizard antennae barely extending about the surface, but I had to pull it out of the river at high tide. While waiting for the tide to drop on my first full day ashore, I observed the bears fishing in the creek when the salmon migrated up to the lake at high tide. The next day, I decided to preposition my camera at the bottom of the falls before high tide and the arrival of the salmon and bears. It was nerve racking positioning my camera even though there were not any bears around at the time. They could emerge from the woods at any moment, so I quickly set it up next to some rocks and returned to the relative security of my viewing platform. This beautiful young bear was the first to arrive. Over the course of an hour, I observed this bear fishing and remotely triggered my camera every time that it appeared to be in front of my camera. Right before this moment, the bear caught the salmon on the far side of the creek. It then ran directly towards my camera with the fish in its mouth when it realized that there was a mother with 2 cubs coming down the creek from above. When I retrieved my camera several hours later, I was giddy with anticipation while reviewing the images and discovered this one was on my memory card. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens inside my Aquatech 5DmkII housing with a Aquatech wide-angle flat port which I remotely triggered with a PocketWizard in an Aquatech PocketWizard housing. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Kuliak Brown Bear 4

Kuliak Brown Bear 4

My August trip to the outer coast of Katmai National Park was pretty dangerous, but it allowed me to create some unique photos. I took my boat on the ferry from Homer to Kodiak and then used it to cross treacherous Shelikof Strait in order to spend several weeks living with the brown bears. I spent the entire trip as close to brown bears as anyone has ever been. This probably sounds insane to most people, but brown bears are not going to just run up to and eat you for no reason. However, they must be respected at all times. One of the new techniques that I employed was using PocketWizards to remotely trigger my cameras so that I could shoot wide-angle bear images. Guessing where to pre-position my cameras was the challenge, but I got better at it as learned the bear’s routines. While visiting Kuliak Bay, brown bears regularly walked past this location, so I placed one of my cameras on a tripod low to the ground and waited. I remotely triggered the camera whenever a bear walked in front of it. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII, 17-40mm f4 lens, and Singh-Ray 2-stop Hard GND filter. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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.

Chenega Glacier Calving 4

Chenega Glacier Calving 4

This past June, my dad and I used my 22′ C-Dory Serenity to cruise Prince William Sound for 8 days. We experienced mostly crappy weather during our trip, but that is typical of coastal Alaska. I was focused on photographing wildflowers near the glaciers, but did not find them in the quantities that I had hoped. So, I turned my attention to photographing the calving tidewater face of the Chenega Glacier which is located in Nassau Fjord south of Whittier. The enormous face of this impressive glacier is several miles wide and over 1000′ tall. Ice is constantly calving off of the face and falling long distances into the water below. Some of these explosions were spectacular to photograph, even though it was incredibly scary being so close. Keep in mind that I anchor Serenity in a protected cove and use my 12′ inflatable to navigate through the ice in order to get close to the glacier. I then drift for hours freezing my butt off waiting for something to happen. These days are filled with monotonous boredom intermixed with brief moments of absolute terror. I would not want to have it any other way. This is one of my favorite images of the ice collapsing into the water. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII and 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Barter Island Polar Bears 35

Barter Island Polar Bears 35

The young polar bears that I photographed during my recent Polar Bear Photography Tour in Alaska spent a lot of time playing with their siblings both on land and in the Arctic Ocean. Polar bears are considered marine mammals since they spend so much of their lives in and out of the water. They are capable of swimming hundreds of miles when they have to. I really like the way that this young bear looked over its shoulder and right into my lens. I find eye contact like this incredibly compelling. Of course, the nice low angle light was an added bonus. I created this image with a Canon 1DmkIV and my 400mm f4 DO IS lens. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Denali Cloudy Sunrise Reflection 1

Denali Cloudy Sunrise Reflection 1

This is one of my new images from my July visit to Denali National Park. I had a professional photography permit to drive the Wonder Lake Road. I’d had no ambition to photograph Denali as I had already done so in 2005 and 2006 when the weather was horrible. Since it is typically very cloudy, I was mostly planning on photographing wildlife near the road. However, when the weather improved and the clouds parted, I switched my goal back to landscape photography. This tundra pond is one of thousands located near Wonder Lake. This sunrise was gorgeous as alpenglow illuminated the summit at 20,000 feet while the clouds clung to the lower flanks of the mountain. There were a lot of water bugs disturbing the surface of this pond, but otherwise the reflection was as close to perfect as possible. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkII, Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.4 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.

Kukak Brown Bear 10

Kukak Brown Bear 10

I created this image while visiting Kukak Bay on the Katmai Coast in August. This brown bear was lazily sitting by the edge of a stream waiting for a salmon to swim past. Eventually, it sat up on its hind legs and yawned. When I saw this image on my camera’s LCD screen, I chuckled. I felt bad for the bear, since this was not the most flattering picture, but I doubt that the bear cares. The early morning golden light was an added bonus. I used my Canon 7D and 500mm f4 IS lens to photograph this moment. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.