Hartney Bay Sandpipers 32

Hartney Bay Sandpipers 32

This is another image from my visit to Cordova, Alaska last month. The focus of my trip was photographing the shorebird migration that takes place each spring along the Copper River delta. Naively, I anticipated millions of shorebirds, but I never saw more than perhaps 10,000 all at once. This was still a spectacular sight to photograph, and how many birds did I really need? The best time to photograph the shorebirds was at high tide, which fortunately corresponded with sunrise and sunset that week. I was also lucky that the sky was clear so that I was able to take advantage of the golden light. This is one of my favorite pictures of the birds in flight. I created this image with my Canon 7D and 400mm f4 DO IS lens plus 1.4X tele-converter. I slightly cropped the original image to make a stronger composition, otherwise, it required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Porcupine in Tree 1

Porcupine in Tree 1

While visiting the Childs Glacier near Cordova, the VW van that Steve and I borrowed got a flat tire. In addition, the light was murky, so we did not get any sunrise pictures of the glacier. After we changed the tire and began driving back to town we encountered a porcupine foraging in the forest. Steve launched out of the van to photograph it so fast that he forgot to put on his Xtratufs. However, after looking at the bog he was immersed in, I methodically put on my boots rather than suffer cold, wet feet. The porcupine took one look at us with our big lenses and headed for the top of a small tree. It initially turned its back to us and raised its quills, which didn’t make a very good image, but eventually relaxed enough to make a few nice portraits. To create this image, I lined up the porcupine with some trees in the background that made for a nice out-of-focus background. I patiently waited until it turned towards me so that I could see its eyes. I created this image with my Canon 7D and 400mm f4 DO IS lens. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Hartney Bay Sandpipers 2

Hartney Bay Sandpipers 2

While visiting Cordova, I saw flocks of several thousand shorebirds, but never the millions that I had read about. If there were millions, they were spread out over the entire Copper River delta region. The shorebirds that I saw were scattered all over the mudflats of Hartney Bay which made photographing them difficult. The best opportunities to photograph them was when they grouped together at high-tide. During the week of my visit, high-tide luckily corresponded with sunrise and sunset. There were also no clouds just clear sky, so I was able to take advantage of the good light. In this image, I positioned myself on the sunlit side of the birds and added some color by including the reflection of the blue sky in the mud. I was attracted to the repetitive patterns of the resting shorebirds, but even when they were resting many of them still moved around. I created this image by hand-holding my Canon 7D and 400mm f4 DO IS lens with my 1.4X tele-converter. Depth-of-field was a real challenge, so I stopped my lens down to f18 and chose ISO 400 to give me a reasonable shutter speed for hand-holding my camera. This image required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Hartney Bay Sunset 1

Hartney Bay Sunset 1

During my recent visit to Cordova, Alaska, I was blessed with nearly a week of perfect weather. Of course, clear blue skies are never conducive to dramatic landscape images, so I kept my eye out for the occasional clouds at sunset. These mountains formed the dramatic backdrop for the prime shorebird viewing area of Hartney Bay. Since it was still early spring, they were still covered in snow almost all the way to sea-level. Fortunately for my photography ambitions, high-tide corresponded with sunset which allowed the channels in Hartney Bay to fill with the incoming tide. Since there was almost no wind the night that I created this image, I was able to photograph a near perfect reflection in the calm waters. The clouds lit up with more dramatic colors as the sun set, but I find my photographic eye increasingly drawn to more fully illuminated landscapes with great light, rather than overwhelming neon colors and dark shadows. I created this image using 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 required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

Hartney Bay Sandpipers 1

Hartney Bay Sandpipers 1

ALASKA!!! That sums up my feelings about my recent trip north. I began my trip by teaching some classes in Anchorage and Fairbanks, but then my friend and fellow photographer Steve Kazlowski joined me for a week photographing the Copper River shorebird migration near Cordova. It was the first time that either of us had been to Cordova. I was prepared for a week of terrible weather based on what I’ve heard, so imagine my surprise when the sky was clear the entire week! Not only was the weather perfect, but high-tide (when the shorebirds were best photographed) actually corresponded with the prime light of sunrise and sunset. I could not believe our fortune, since neither of us did any research before our trip. It was very difficult to photograph the flocks of mostly Western sandpipers, but this is one of my favorite images. I like how the shorebirds are landing towards me and a few of them are in sharp focus amongst the chaos. I created this image with my Canon 7D and 500mm f4 IS lens (which Canon Professional Services was kind enough to loan me). I slightly cropped the original image to make a stronger composition, otherwise, it required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.