I’m kind of looking forward to heading back to Alaska next week. I say kind of because of the terrible June weather we have had here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m sure that it will be quite similar during most of July in Alaska which is kind of depressing. Oh, well. That is the price to pay for beautiful images in the 49th state. As I have recently finished editing my backlog of photos, I rediscovered this spectacular sunset image from my visit to Denali National Park last July. I had a professional photographer’s permit which allowed me to drive the Wonder Lake Road in my own vehicle for 9 days. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to create some fantastic wildlife and landscape images. The beautiful sunset light illuminating the virga in the distance caught me by surprise. I quickly jumped out of the van and ran down to this tundra pond next to the side of the road. It’s moments like this that I need to be confident in my abilities to set up my camera very quickly and efficiently.
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.
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.