I got my copy of the May issue of Alaska magazine the other day with this sea otter image featured on pages 20-21! I took this photo last July while spending a week near Taylor Bay on the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park. It was raining and terrible weather, but at least I was stuck in a secure anchorage called Fern Harbor. I spent several days in a row following this sea otter around the bay in my inflatable. In the shallow water, I could sea him foraging underneath my boat and anticipate where he was going to come back up to the surface to get this shot. It was a lot of fun.
I am proud to announce that my favorite image from 2008 is “Torres Dramatic Sunrise”. I created this image in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park in the region of South America better known as Patagonia. I’ve been familiar with these mountains since well before I even knew what a mountain looked like. I was first introduced to the Patagonia clothing company by my Uncle Jerry way back in junior high school while growing up in Michigan. While I was very active in rock-climbing and mountaineering during the 90’s, I read a number of amazing stories about climbing the famous granite spires of the region. Even though I am no longer interested in technical climbing, I had always wanted to visit these legendary mountains and in 2007 I finally had the opportunity to do so. I loved the spectacular scenery so much, that I went back last January. I did not have enough time during my first trip to backpack to the famous Los Torres viewpoint, so I made it my main objective on this second visit. It is a 16 mile roundtrip hike up to the Torres campground, so in order to photograph the mountains at sunrise you need to camp overnight. I took enough food and equipment to spend 5 days and had uncommonly good weather. Every morning I would get up an hour before sunrise to hike up the ridge to the famous viewpoint and wait for the sunrise. I did this 4 days in a row, and on my final day I got lucky when the clouds parted for a brief moment and the sunrise light illuminated the spires in golden light. Patagonia is one of my favorite travel destinations and I am going back again on January 25 for 15 days. I am going to have a photographic rematch with Mt Fitz Roy and the elusive Cerro Torre in Los Glaciares National Park. It takes a lot of energy to travel that far for a couple of images, but the results are worth the effort. I created this image using my Pentax 67II, 75mm lens, Singh-Ray 2-Stop Hard GND filter, Gitzo Basalt tripod, Acratech Ultimate ballhead, Fuji Velvia 50 film at f22 and 3 seconds.
Last year was not one of my most productive years for landscape photography. The weather in Southeast Alaska during the summer gave me very few photo opportunities and overall I focused more on shooting wildlife. I still prefer the results of my medium format film cameras for shooting landscape images, but admit that it is becoming much more difficult for me to spend the money on film when I own 2 digital SLRs. I have become very selective about pushing the button when it costs me over $1 per image. Fortunately, I still find a scene once in awhile that justifies the investment.
In late August, I took advantage of the late season wildflower bloom at Mount Rainier National Park to create this image, “Spray Park Wildflowers”. I have hiked up to Spray Park at least once per summer for the last 8 years. I have had mixed results creating the photograph that I have envisioned, so I keep going back hoping for something more dramatic. It is only a 6 mile round-trip hike, so I can leave Seattle in the afternoon and be up in the meadows in time to photograph the sunset. After the shoot is over, I hike back down to my truck with a headlamp in the dark. On this attempt, the lupine and paintbrush were the best that I had seen in the last 5 years and there were some nice clouds up in the sky. I created this image using my Pentax 67II, 45mm lens, Singh-Ray LB Polarizer, Singh-Ray 2-stop Hard GND filter, Gitzo Basalt tripod, Acratech Ultimate ballhead, Fuji Velvia 50 film at f22 and 2 seconds.
I got rained on almost continuously for 15 days in July while waiting for a favorable weather window to make the dangerous run from Elfin Cove up the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park to Lituya Bay. I never got the chance. The reality of motoring around in the North Pacific in 15’+ seas just did not interest me. While passing away the time, I got to spend a few days in one of my favorite locations, Taylor Bay near Cape Spencer. It is an area of unimaginable beauty and pure wilderness. Rugged sea stacks on the coast meet glaciers that come down to the sea surrounded by 12,000′ mountains. Unfortunately, the weather made it impossible to shoot any spectacular landscape scenes, but I did spend a few days photographing the most uninhibited sea otter that I have ever encountered. Usually, sea otters will not let me get within 100 yards of them before they dive down to escape. I have no idea how they were almost exterminated when they used to be hunted. They are just so incredibly shy. This male let me follow him around in the pouring rain in my inflatable. He would swim from one side of the bay to the other all the while diving down and eating everything that he could catch. Sea otters need to eat something like 25% of their body weight every day. Often, he would be visible in the shallow water directly underneath my boat, so I could watch him forage and anticipate where he was going to come back up to the surface to photograph him. This is my favorite image. He captured 2 crabs and brought them back to the surface to eat. I caught this comical expression with his mouth open while eating. This image was created using my Canon 5D, 400mm f4 DO IS lens at f4 and 1/500 second.
I just took a repeat client on a week long backpacking photography workshop into the North Cascades. Nick really wanted to do a long backpacking trip with a spectacular photography location at the end. I decided to take him to Tapto Lakes above Whatcom Pass deep in the North Cascades. It is almost 20 miles one-way in to the lakes. We took a few days to hike in with incredibly large packs including 2 cameras each and a weeks supply of food. Last Sunday, we got a break in the weather and the wind stopped blowing long enough to shoot a pretty nice reflection image of Whatcom Peak in the late afternoon light. The next day, we decided to try and do the entire hike out in 1 day. We succeeded in doing all 19 miles in just over 11 hours, but we were exhausted and unable to walk the next day! My future backpacking photography workshops will not involve quite as much hiking. Please visit more of my North Cascades National Park Photography.
I got out hiking and camping a bit the last few weeks now that the summer is coming to an end and I am no longer flying up to Alaska to get rained on and not take any pictures while spending a lot of money. Yes, summer in Southeast was tough this year. Also, my last trip to use my boat got interrupted by a house fire back home! My girls were out of the house and safe when it happened and my slides and hard drives were not destroyed, but we had to move and re-buy all of our second floor bedroom furniture and clothes. My daughters started back to school last week. We are doing fine, but what a pain. Anyway, I went down to Mt Rainier 2 weekends in a row to try and photograph the summer wildflowers. Spray Park is one of my favorite locations in the park, so I always enjoy the hike. I do it int the afternoon, shoot the sunset, and then hike back to the car in the dark. The flowers were very late this year, but they were pretty good. Please visit more of my Mount Rainier National Park Photography.
I spent 2 very wet days following an incredibly friendly sea otter around a bay that I was anchored in on the outer coast of Glacier Bay National Park. I have never had any luck getting within 100 yards of a sea otter, let alone take it’s picture. The moms and babies especially want nothing to do with me. But this little guy was a whole different story. When I first found him, he did not react and swim away, rather he just continued his swimming and feeding routine. I spent about 8 hours 2 days in a row following him around and observing his behavior. He was so incredibly cute and tolerant of my presence. This is one of my favorite images of him scratching his head with the beautiful green forest reflection all around him. Please visit more of my Sea Otter Photography.
Every time that this sea otter went to the far end of the bay at low tide, he would drop down to the bottom and grab 2 crabs to eat. He must have eaten 20-30 crabs in an hour. It was very cool watching him, and he could have cared less about my inflatable following him around all day. Please visit more of my Sea Otter Photography.
I first visited Taylor Bay near Cape Spencer in May and knew that I had to come back. The Fairweather Mountains and the Brady Glacier are just incredible to look at, if you can see them. I am still trying to figure out how to photograph them if the conditions ever allowed for it. In the meantime, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the rocky shoreline and moraine flats. This composition came together very quickly for me. It was the only golden sunset light image I got in 15 days of getting rained on in SE Alaska. Please visit more of my Glacier Bay National Park Photography.