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.
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.