Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Naval Iron(y)

Sunday, May 5th, 2013
Naval Iron(y)

When I enlisted in the Navy in the summer of 1986, I really didn’t know much about what I wanted to do.  I thought maybe avionics would be interesting (my father, after all, had been a fire control technician in the Air Force for 20 years), but I would have to wait months for the A-School to have an opening and spend my time as a boatswain’s mate in the meantime.  No thanks.  So, I signed up as an Operations Specialist – operating radar and tactical data systems.

But months after arriving on board my first command, the U.S.S. Haleakala (AE-25), I learned of a chance to do a collateral duty as ship’s photographer.  When growing up, I had this little Kodak Instamatic X-15 camera that I took everywhere; even saved it from drowning when I fell in the creek back home on a summer adventure. I thought that learning how to be a photographer would be fun.  So, I volunteered to take on the role as Ship’s Photographer and immediately went to the base exchange to buy my first single lens reflex (SLR) camera: a Minolta X-700.  I really didn’t know anything about setting exposures and taking pictures.  Fortunately, the Navy sent me to a naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, to attend Intelligence Photography School.  In a few weeks, I learned exposure control, the basics of composition, and how to develop my own black and white film – Kodak Tech Pan 2415 film. It was also around that time I took on another complimentary collateral duty – the role of Enlisted Intelligence Assistant, which elevated my Secret clearance to Top Secret.  I would become an integral part of the intelligence gathering capacity of our ship when we encountered Soviet craft.

But my role as a photographer on the Haleakala went beyond leading the “Snoopy Team” to photograph and document encounters with Soviet aircraft and ships; it became a way of life that consumed me during my times off watch or when in port and we had “knocked off ship’s work.”  I was called upon to photograph re-enlistment ceremonies, fire drills, visiting Admirals, and whatever else was needed.  I beamed with pride to see my first photo published in the Apra Harbor Naval Station (Guam) newspaper: a shot of a Soviet AGI we had encountered out at sea.  I even photographed my first wedding, a traditional Navy wedding on the signal bridge of the ship, officiated by the ship’s Commanding Officer.

When I transferred to my second command, a Spruance Class destroyer named the U.S.S. David R. Ray (DD-971), I continued to serve as Ship’s Photographer, but in a much expanded capacity.  The David R. Ray had just completed a long drydock period to convert her forward box launchers to a new vertical launch system (VLS) to accommodate her new contingent of Tomahawk missiles.  A lengthy sea trial period followed, where we tested the Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAMs) and Tomahawk anti-ship missiles (TASMs).  We also tested a new Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) launching system.  And all along, part of my job was to document the testing.  It was amazing what I was capable of doing with a manual focus lens and no motor drive – just the manual crank to advance my film.  I was also tasked with taking the new post-drydock official photo of the ship – from the open door of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.  And again, ceremonies, visitors, ports of call; all came part of my growing development as a photographer, as a photojournalist.

My passion for photography had grown so much, it lead me to the inevitable conclusion: I needed to cross-rate from Operations Specialist to Photographer’s Mate. And the timing was perfect.  It was coming time for me to re-enlist, the natural time to make the change from one rating to another. If I had stayed on as an Operations Specialist, I would have collected a re-enlistment bonus of $17,500, would have made E-6 within a year, and would only have to re-enlist for four years.  In contrast, my re-enlistment to become a Photographer’s Mate would have been a mandatory six years, I would essentially have to start all over as an E-5 (and thus greatly extend my advancement to E-6), and there would be no re-enlistment bonus.  It was an easy decision; I wanted to be a photographer full-time. But there was one catch.  Cross-rate switches from a low CREO (Career Re-Enlistment Objective) group to a high CREO group was automatic.  But crossing from a high one to a low one – that is, from Operations Specialist to Photographer’s Mate – would have required special consideration.  My Executive Officer, who despised Operations personnel, refused to submit the paperwork: “It’s a waste of the Navy’s time,” he said.  This he said to a sailor who had been selected as Junior Sailor of the Year on his first command, was awarded Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist status as a Petty Officer Third Class (unheard of in 1988), and had been awarded the Navy Achievement Medal.  “A waste of the Navy’s time.”  With that, I left the Navy, took my GI Bill, and went to college.

While I did not major in photography when I attended college after leaving the Navy, I took some classes and continued to develop as a photographer.  After college, I worked for a national portrait company as well as a local sports photography company.  I delved into nature photography as a result of working for two summers as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota.  And then, in Law School, I was shooting freelance for the University of Minnesota campus paper as well as being the lead photographer and photo editor for the Law School newspaper.  And then, in 1999, I moved to Alaska – more than a decade after I had volunteered to serve as Ship’s Photographer on the Haleakala.

And over the decade that followed, my photography exploded. I started my own photography business and provided photo services for many clients, from local businesses to the internationally famous Tony Robbins.  I captured portraits and preserved the wonder of weddings.  I photographed hundreds of sporting events, from every high school sport played in Anchorage, to the Iditarod and the Great Alaska Shootout, to serving as the team photographer to Alaska’s first professional football team, the Alaska Wild.

My photography work took me from the southeast of the state in Juneau to the farthest reaches north of the oil fields of the North Slope.  And along the way, I was never denied access.  I was able to acquire the necessary media credentials to photograph in the restricted areas for the Iditarod and the Great Alaska Shootout, to access military installations such as Fort Richardson and Elemendorf Air Force Base.  I was even granted access to the most restricted region of the entire state of Alaska – the oilfields of the North Slope inside the British Petroleum security zone.  I even had the pleasure of serving the Navy again, capturing crew portraits of the U.S.S. Peleliu (LHA-5) as she transited from San Diego to Pearl Harbor.

But I haven’t just had a diverse photographic career with an impressive client list, I am slowly building a strong list of publications, awards and artist residencies.

So, when the Office of the Major of Anchorage sent out an invitation for the media to attend a briefing and receive media credentials for the arrival and commissioning of the U.S.S. Anchorage (LPD-23), I jumped at the opportunity. I attended the briefing, took copious notes, collected a media briefing packet, and looked forward to having the access to document the first Navy vessel ever commissioned in my new home state.  It seemed a perfect merging of my photographic origins and where my photography has taken me – to Alaska – with great credit to the opportunity that the Navy provided me so many years ago.

And then, the Navy dropped another bowling ball on my head.  I received an email later that day from a Navy PAO (Public Affairs Officer) telling me that unless I was employed by credentialed media (like a newspaper), I would not be granted media access to the ship.  I wrote her back, told her I was a professional photographer represented by Alaska Stock – Alaska’s premiere photo stock agency – and that I was a Navy veteran who had served as a ship’s photographer.  She wrote me back, thanked me for my service, and told me I could try my luck with the other 285,000 people living in Anchorage for a shot at 4,000 tickets to have access to the commissioning ceremony.  All of the tickets were gone the first day they were available, given out at a time I was unable to even attempt to get any.

When I read the Anchorage Daily Newsaccount of the commissioning ceremony, I read of the proud Navy veterans who live in Anchorage and were able to attend the ceremony.  Well, here is one proud Navy veteran who owes his career as a photographer to the Navy, and I was specifically told to stay away.  How’s that for irony – and twice in my life that the Navy has not only denied me opportunity, but denied itself the opportunity to reap the fruits of its own investment in me.  And, quite frankly, from the published photos I have seen of the Anchorage and the commissioning ceremony, the Navy would have been wise to let me come on board.

“Where were you when …” Remembering 9/11 in Denali

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

How many times in our nation’s history do we have to have an event so profound that it is burned into our psyche, into our collective memory?  How many times do we have to have events that are recalled by, “Where were you when …?”  Pearl Harbor.  The assassination of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy.  The Challenger Explosion.  And, of course, 9/11.  That’s two just for my generation, well, at least, that I can remember.  King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated while I was alive, but before I can remember.

And while all but one of those events, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, was a deliberate act committed by men who could not exist within the demands of a civil society, they all stood to give us pause, to wonder amongst ourselves who we were as a people, where we were going.  They all in one way or another changed the shape of how we believed and perceived our way of life, altered the course and tone of our country.  For Pearl Harbor, it was an awakening from economic nightmare and deliverance from an isolationist world view, launching us to ultimate prominence as a world power, not only because of our might but because of our leadership.  With the assassinations of the 1960s, it pierced the growing hope of social change and darkened the hearts of those who had come to believe that a new day was upon us.  With the Challenger explosion, it dampened our spirit of exploration and stalled – eventually killed – the space shuttle program.

And then, there was 9/11.  So many people have used the phrase “post-9/11 world” as if there was something that happened on that day that was so different than any other singular event in our nation’s history.  Had there never been a significant terrorist attack on U.S. soil before?  Of course there was, in 1995 white anti-government Christian extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols detonated an explosive that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.  Well, had U.S. soil never been attacked by foreigners before?  Of course it had.  The British sacked Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812, burning the White House.  The Japanese attacked Hawaii at Pearl Harbor and invaded Alaska at multiple points on the Aleutian Islands during World War II.  Well, how about Islamic terrorists, certainly they had never attacked U.S. interests before, had they?  Of course they had, with the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the small boat attack on the U.S.S. Cole, the embassy bombings in Africa, and on and on.

The point of this blog post is not to explore why this particular attack had the profound impact on U.S. society, U.S. foreign policy, and U.S. domestic law enforcement and intelligence that it has.  My interest is not in exploring how a group of people involved in a neo-conservative organization called the Project for the New American Century, a group of people who wielded inordinate influence over foreign policy decisions in the White House, asserted in 1998 that there needed to be a “New Pearl Harbor” in order for them to pursue their agenda, and how ignoring a Presidential Daily Briefing on August 6, 2001, which specifically warned President George W. Bush that Osama Bin Laden was planning an attack on the U.S. using aircraft as missiles, led to that “New Pearl Harbor” those people so desperately wanted.  So much has happened to this country in the wake of that terrible day, so much unrestrained power and abuse of power, that is seems almost pointless to explore such nuances.  I simply want to leave it all behind, leave the expounding to the pundits and historians, and reflect on what I was doing on that day.

I think I was probably in the best place in the world to be on September 11, 2001.

I had risen early that morning in the cabin where I was staying at the Denali Backcountry Lodge in Kantishna, deep within the heart of Denali National Park & Preserve in Alaska.  I and several other photographers piled into two vans to head to Wonder Lake to capture the sunrise, completely unaware that the attacks had already begun.  The lodge where we were staying at that time did not have Internet, television, or a land line.  It was out of the range of cellular phone towers.  Our only link to the outside world was a fax machine and an intermittently-working satellite phone.

I had been living in Alaska for just over two years, yet this was my first time in Denali.  I was standing on the park road at the northern edge of Wonder Lake, spending my first sunrise in the park waiting to photograph a classic moment in Alaska landscape photography – first light on Denali, the highest peak in North America.

Seeing Denali in the morning at Wonder Lake for the first time is amazing.  Long before the sun even rises, you get to gaze upon the massive north face of the mountain, standing high above the moraine of the Muldrow Glacier, presenting the tallest rise from foothills to summit of any mountain in the world.  The mountain absorbs all the soft pastel colors of pre-sunrise light, reflecting its immense façade on the smooth surface of Wonder Lake.  I had seen Denali at sunrise the morning before as we were heading into the park, but from a position 90 miles farther away, and from a very different vantage point, showing both the south and north summits.

When light finally started to fall on Denali on this particular morning, it was muted by clouds to the east.  The amazing alpenglow light show that I have later come to enjoy for sunrise on Denali never came to fruition that morning.  There was merely a hint of alpenglow on the sides of some adjacent peaks, but never any good light on the mountain itself.  Once it was clear that the light had faded for good, we returned to the lodge for breakfast … and for the news of what had happened.

When we approached the side entrance to the lodge to enter the dining room, we were met by a sign posted on the door with bullet points of information: airplanes crashed into World Trade Center in New York, suspected terrorists were responsible.  We also learned that other planes had gone down, one at the Pentagon and another one that was suspected to be on its way to the White House.  All air travel was suspended.  We spent the rest of the day milling about at the lodge, trying to learn more, talking with each other about what had happened.  In addition to the group of photographers, there were also some VIPs staying at the lodge: Stephen Root and Wayne Knight.  They were stranded because they had planned to fly out of the park via Kantishna Air Service, but would have to wait.  Of all the places to be grounded in Alaska, the Denali Backcountry Lodge was pretty darn good.  It was certainly better than the many moose or caribou hunters who sat waiting for days and days for an air taxi that never showed, wondering why there was no pickup and whether there was enough food left to wait it out.

That evening we returned to Wonder Lake to some incredible evening light, lenticular clouds, amazing fall colors, and luscious alpenglow.  That night, we had a vibrant swirling display of aurora borealis.

It was only two days later when we drove out of the park that we learned that the World Trade Center towers had completely collapsed.  We learned about the Korean Air Lines scare that forced evacuations of several tall office buildings in downtown Anchorage.  We considered ourselves lucky to be free of the fear and the constant media assault, continually showing the chaos and destruction that fell upon Manhattan, deepening the trauma in our collective experience.

Ten years later, I returned to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, this time as a guest presenter.  It was my fifth visit to the lodge since 9/11, my third as a guest presenter.  I thought about my first time at the lodge and the monumental events that occurred during my first visit to Denali National Park & Preserve.  As I left the lodge and headed back out of the park along the long road, I paused at Wonder Lake to capture the calm, still waters of the lake and the soft pastel blue light bathing Denali.  I pondered how wonderful it was that, despite the turmoil that had embroiled our country since 9/11, our mountains majesty still reigned supreme.

Photographs can capture important events like those surrounding the attacks of 9/11 and remind us of the bad and evil in the world.  But, fortunately, they can also remind us of the beauty and resilience of nature, and how we can always go back to it to feel at peace and secure.

Rethinking the blog; at the Smithsonian

Sunday, June 12th, 2011
Rethinking the blog; at the Smithsonian

Michelle keeps telling me that I do not use this blog enough, that I rely too much on my short, daily posts on Facebook to get the word out there.  Well, she is right.  All I have to do is look around for a bit at what other photographers are doing to get confirmation.

Some time back, I reported that my “Wolf Tracks on Ice” image had been selected as the “Environmental Issues” category winner for the 2010 Windland Smith Rice International Awards sponsored by Nature’s Best Photography magazine.  According to Nature’s Best Photography, there were 20,000 images submitted in the competition, and 500 selected as semi-finalists.  Of those, a total of 150 were chosen for inclusion in the magazine, with 18 category winners and the remainder as highly honored.   As a category winner, my image was automatically included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History that went on display on April 16, and will remain on display until the end of September.

Michelle and I took the opportunity of this honor to travel to Washington, D.C., where we spent about five days visiting museums, monuments and memorials, and visiting our two U.S. senators.  The highlight, of course, was the evening reception at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History to see the exhibition, meet other award recipients, and talk to people about our piece.  Each category winner was presented their award and given the opportunity to speak.  I took the opportunity to thank Nature’s Best and the Smithsonian for the honor of being there, and to thank Michelle for her support.  I briefly told the story about when the photo was taken, and remarked that it was likely that Zak Richter (the park ranger with whom I was mushing) and I were the only people in the park that day, the only people in 9 million acres of wilderness.  Given how few people visit the park each year – a few thousand – it was highly unlikely that many people would ever have the privilege of such an experience.  But, I noted that, as a nature photographer, that is part of why we do what we do; to capture images of things and locations that other people will likely never see, and share those images so that at least people can live vicariously through our experiences and feel a connection to the place.

As I noted at the outset, it is time to rethink the blog, make it a better tool for communicating ideas and information.  And boy, do I have a lot of ideas!  Watch out.

Nakatindi School

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
Nakatindi School

For each of the Anthony Robbins Platinum Partner events, the Platinum Partners engage in a “contribution” during the event.  Simply put, the contribution is a day-long community service project that has been thought out and carefully planned.  For the Africa event, the group chose the Nakatindi Community School of Livingstone, Zambia for its contribution effort. They could not have found a better focus for their efforts.

Education in Zambia is provided at two levels: primary education (years 1 to 9), and upper secondary (years 10 to 12). Some schools provide a “basic” education covering years 1 to 9, as year 9 is considered to be a decent level of education for the majority of children. However, tuition is only free up to year 7, and UNESCO estimates that 80% of children of primary school age in 2002 were enrolledMost children drop out after year 7 when fees must be paid.  In addition to tuition, students at the government schools must also pay for textbooks, supplies and uniforms.  Both government and private schools exist in Zambia. The private school system began largely as a result of Christian mission efforts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

For the Nakatindi School, the government only provided an annual funding of $150 for the last two years for supplies, maintenance, and other needs.  The goal, then, of the Platinum Partners contribution effort was threefold: (1) raise a significant amount of money to provide much needed supplies, staffing, and facilities; (2) collect a significant amount of books to aid in the education of the students (who all learn to speak English); and (3) personally visit the school to perform a massive and coordinated maintenance effort in several needed areas: windows, desks, doors, walls (painting), floors (concrete patching), and gardening (the school endeavors to grow all of the food it feeds its students).  According to the Anthony Robbins organization, the group conducted an exhaustive search to find a school where the community, faculty and students would fully commit to the effort.  I can say they roundly succeeded.

Before arriving at the school, I learned that the school had dramatically increased its proficiency test scores in the last five years since its new headmaster arrived.  I also learned that of the approximately 800 students at the school, the majority of them are orphans, who attend primarily so they can get at least the one meal a day that is provided at school.  I did not know what to expect in what I would see or find at the school, but what I did find was beyond my imagination.

When we pulled into the school, all of the children – all of them – were out on the grounds, playing, running about in their white and blue uniforms.  In the middle of the yard stood a tent with stacks of thousands of books collected by the Platinum Partners as part of the contribution.  After a few minutes, I turned to Karl, who works for Robbins Research International, and asked, “What, is this their recess period or something?”  His response reflected the impact of three days of travel to get their on my mental faculties: “No, it’s Sunday.  There’s no school today.  All of these children came here just for this.”  I had completely lost track of what day it was.  I suspect the travel and my previous day’s sudden and violent illness probably had something to do with it.  “Wow,” I responded simply, dumbfoundedly.

Then, for the next half an hour, I was mobbed like a celebrity by dozens upon dozens of children who wanted me to take their picture.  I quickly learned that showing the kids the LCD with the capture of their photo was also a part of the ritual.  I also found it was impossible to take a photo of just one child; once I started to set up a shot, the nearest six to eight children would force their way into the shot.  I soon learned some deceptive techniques: I’d tell the child I wanted to photograph to stand off to the side, then I would pretend to set up a shot of a mob of children – then quickly turn over and photograph the child I originally wanted to.  Then, of course, I would have to turn back to the mob of kids so that they would be satisfied.  It was a bit overwhelming, this very outgoing, friendly and fearless group of children, taking pleasure out of such a simple act as having someone take their photo.

After a while, all of the students lined up on both sides of the driveway coming into the school to greet a caravan of jeeps carrying the Platinum Partners.  The greeting was much more orderly than I expected, given the energy level of the children and the significance of what the day would have in store for them.  As I waited for the jeeps to arrive, I noticed a small boy sitting on a stump with a patch sown into the left leg of his pants: “Barack.”  I asked him, “You like Barack Obama?”  Enthusiastically, he responded, “Yes.”  If only the POTUS’s own people felt the same way about him, I thought.  But as I saw throughout every aspect of what happened that day, having the right attitude is a vital foundation for any success.  Believe that you will succeed and, with a little help, you will.  Believe in failure or hope for failure, and it is bound to ensue.

After the Platinum Partners arrived, everyone gathered for a celebratory dance and drumming, followed by an announcement as to how the maintenance teams would be divided.  For the next few hours, I simply went around from station to station, trying to capture a glimpse of the spirit and heart of these children and the Platinum Partners, and to somehow document the significance of the work that was being done.  While being a photographer can be a privilege at times like this, being witness to significant events and recording them in detail and artistry, it can also be a barrier.  As much as you can get caught up in some of the energy of an event like this, as a photographer, you are somewhat removed emotionally and unable to fully participate in a way that is as meaningful as those you capture on pixels.

I photographed kids and adults hauling buckets of water to soak newly planted trees, working together to hammer nails into repaired desk legs and seats, and getting messy together to paint walls and cement-patch floors.  I gained a new understanding of the term “heat in the kitchen” by joining the local women and Platinum Partners (oddly, only the women were assigned to kitchen duty) in the open-air tent that served as the kitchen.  With kettles sitting on open, hot coals, it did not take long to get hot under the hot Zambian sun.  I thought of the occasional barbecue we have held in our backyard when I contemplated how much food these women had to prep and cook for the 800 children of the school. Given the small space available for those children, it took several hours to run them all through the cafeteria to eat the one meal they would be served that day.

After work, the students and Platinum Partners played soccer and football, danced, shared stories, and posed for more pictures.  On one of the newly-painted walls, they all put hand prints in various colors to reflect the bond and partnership of the day.  Then, there were many, many more pictures.

The impact of that day and the effort by the Anthony Robbins Platinum Partners simply cannot be grasped; only an examination of the numbers gives a glimpse of how much this contribution meant to the staff and students of the Nakatindi Community School.  As of the day of that event, there was only one teacher for every 75 students.  There was only one book per classroom.  Most of the desks and chairs in the school were broken or damaged in some way.  By the day of the contribution, the Platinum Partners had raised over $40,000 dollars to contribute to the school, as well as collect thousands of books.  That money would provide salaries for three more teachers for three more years, provide new facilities, and build a fence and pay for a security guard to keep the new, massive book collection from being stolen (a likelihood given the rarity of books in the country).  As if that was not enough, later that evening, at the closing social event for the Zambia part of the trip, the Platinum Partners collected $3,000 more to go the next day to purchase tools to donate to the school so that it could continue its maintenance efforts.

Bird TLC

Saturday, August 14th, 2010
Bird TLC

When I went to college at the University of Minnesota, I learned about the Minnesota Raptor Center when the organization came and gave a presentation at the dorm where I was working as a resident assistant.  The Raptor Center is operated through the U of MN College of Veterinary Medicine – which makes a lot of sense – and “specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation, conservation, and study of eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons.”  As a hazard of human occupation of the former wild habitat for these birds, human-raptor encounters often result in broken bones, wings, punctured eyes, and all manner of injuries to raptors.  The place where they go to receive care is the Minnesota Raptor Center.  If they can be rehabilitated, they are released to the wild; if not, they remain at the Center and are used in public educational presentations. It was the first time in my life I was exposed to such a place.  I thought it was a wonderful idea, and had no comprehension that it was not a unique facility.

Fast forward many years later, and I am riding a ferry from Whittier to Cordova for my first Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival.  I was on the boat with several members of the Alaska Society of Outdoor and Nature Photographers, including one of our new honorary members, Roy Toft, whom Cathy Hart, a longtime ASONP board member and heavy recruiter, had met at a recent annual conference for the North American Nature Photography Association.  Really – this is how people make connections in the nature photography world!  Anyway, during the seven-hour ride, there were several presentations given by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, the Anchorage equivalent of the Raptor Center.  However, unlike the Raptor Center, the Bird TLC does not specialize in raptors, but opens its doors to all manner of injured birds as well as abandoned fledged chicks.  (If you recall my post about swallows earlier this summer, the Bird TLC helped a fledgling we found in our own yard.)

Over the years in Minnesota, I went to several public events where the Raptor Center would have education on their birds and also release back into the wild some rehabilitated birds.  When I saw a notice that Bird TLC would be having its autumn event, I insisted that we go.  So, Daniel and Michelle and I went to the Bird TLC facility, which sits on the bluff overlooking Potter Marsh.  If I were a rehabilitated raptor, I could not think of a better place to be released but over a wetlands with lots of juicy ducks and other waterfowl for the taking.

It was a great opportunity to see all of the things that Bird TLC is up to, but also to see the expanse of other organizations, both local and national, that address issues associated with birds and birding.  From falconry to parks to Audubon, several organizations and issue-driven booths were available.  Most intersting for me, and I am sure for Daniel as well, was the opportunity to see the birds up close and to handle various bird parts (like trumpeter swan wings) to get a sense of the texture, size and weight.  Of course, Michelle’s favorite part was the owls, and we had some great opportunities to see a Great Horned Owl and Snowy Owl up close.  When Michelle went to purchase a couple of lattes at the stand, Daniel wandered into the woods to pick raspberries.

We were not able to stay for the bird release later in the afternoon, but it gave me great pleasure to see how many people turned out for the program and to imagine the rehabilitated birds gliding out over the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge upon release and return to freedom.

To Seward for some Pink Cheeks

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
To Seward for some Pink Cheeks

Michelle and I went down to Seward on Friday so she could participate in the Pink Cheeks Triathlon on Saturday.  I knew that we were not going to be spending much time in town, so I decided to focus my efforts on photographing the harbor.  After a delicious dinner at Ray’s  of cajun blacked halibut cheeks, Michelle retired to the room and I spent a about an hour and a half after nightfall photographing the boats in the harbor.  The next morning, I got up right around sunrise at 6:00 to go back out and explore the harbor with the morning light.  Due to the steep ridges and peaks of Resurrection Bay, the sun never actually hit the harbor until I was finishing for the morning.  After breakfast, Michelle and I went for a walk on the docks, photographing boats, a raven, a couple of dogs that were snarling at me, and, when Michelle pointed it out, a Stellar sea lion cow meandering among the boat docks in the harbor.

 Then, we headed over to Seward High School, the focal point of the Pink Cheeks Triathlon.  Pink Cheeks is what is referred to as a “sprint” triathlon, in that the swimming is 900 yards, the running is three miles and the biking is only six miles.  It is also the first of many triathlons for the year in Southcentral Alaska.  We hooked up with Michelle’s sister, Linda, and her kids, Tyler and Maddie.  Tyler and Michelle were part of a three-person team, while Linda was doing the triathlon solo.   For those who were swimming as part of a team, the swimming came before the run.  In order to accommodate all the swimmers, locals were required to swim on Friday.  Following the swim, there was a mass start for all runners, followed by the bike portion.  Then, for many of the people doing the triathlon solo, the swimming came at the end. 

Welcoming a new year

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Welcoming a new year

In Alaska, the biggest parties seem to happen in the middle of winter.  During the short season we call Construction Season, people are generally frantically working in as much as they can of those things they cannot do the remaining eight months of the year – gardening, hiking, fishing, outdoor maintenance on the home … you get the picture.

And what better way to bring in the new year then to have one of the largest parties in Anchorage, right in the heart of downtown at Town Square Park.  Hosted by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and sponsored by NECA and IBEW, the annual “Fire and Ice” New Year’s Eve celebration is quite an extravaganza.  Skaters, fire throwers, dancers, live music – everything you would want from a nighttime winter outside party.  Keeping the whole party going through the evening, twin brothers Wayne and Shane Mitchell of TBA Theatre entertained the crowds without fail.  Fortunately, it was quite a bit warmer than the subzero of last year’s party.  It must have been at least ten degrees outside.

This year’s theme celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Statehood for our sister state, Hawai’i.  Replete with hula dancers and a volcano that erupted with fireworks every fifteen minutes, the party had much to offer in celebrating Hawaiian culture.  There was certainly more on display to celebrate Hawaiian culture for this party than there was downtown on January 3, 2009 to celebrate Alaskan culture when we marked our own fifty years as a state.  I am not quite sure how that worked out.  Perhaps hula dancers are more pleasing to look at than dog teams and guys in Carharts.  We certainly see more of the latter than the former.  But some Alaska Native dancers at least would have been in order for our own celebration.

Part of the fun in attending these events is also in seeing the interaction among the VIPs.  Normally, it is the Anchorage mayor who really sends off the party with a big welcome and greeting to the crowd.  While our new Mayor Dan Sullivan filled the letter of that role, his crowd skills were not quite up to the task of the occasion.  Standing behind him, the former mayor now United States Senator Mark Begich waited for his chance to speak to the crowd.  There was a visible distance between the two men, no doubt because of the voracious and constant criticism that Mayor Sullivan has rained down upon Senator Begich about his former job performance as mayor.  But Senator Begich stepped in and spoke to the crowd, showing that he still had the power to truly give this party a proper sendoff.  Joining in, after giving Mayor Sullivan some “rabbit ears” while he was talking, was Congressman Don Young, how acted as if he had not spent nearly two million dollars over the last couple of years in fending off a federal investigation into his various shenanigans.  Later, inside the Performing Arts Center, I enjoyed playing voyeur to a lively chat between local blogger, Huffington Post contributor and frequent MSNBC guest Shannyn Moore and Senator Begich.

All in all, another fine entry to a new year in Anchorage.

“Icons” First Friday

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Sometimes, you just get lucky.  A while back, I made arrangements to gft an “Icons of Alaska” print to the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau during the March member luncheon.  Actually, I am going to give them this very “Moose” print because I photographed it within the Anchorage bowl, up in the Powerline Pass area in Chugach State Park, and it fits nicely with the “Big Wild Life” theme.  Then, a couple of things happened.

First, the ACVB called me and said their March artist had to back out of his planned show and could I fill in at the Log Cabin and Visitor Center downtown.  Well, gee, let me think of that … I have a whole new print and note card series I am trying to promote and they need an artist to fill in during the month with the one day in the whole year where downtown Anchorage probably gets the most visitors – the ceremonial start of the Iditarod.  So, of course, I said “yes” and decided my show would be the “Icons.”

Then, the ACVB told me that they had to move the March member meeting to the 18th because they were going to have a mayoral candidate forum and they needed to move to accomodate some candidates.  No problem there, either.  Having the mayoral forum will certainly ensure that a LOT of people will be at the luncheon and, even though I will only be in the spotlight for about 2-3 minutes, it will be one heck of a way to let other businesses, one of my target markets for the “Icons,” to know about the product.

So, if you are going to be downtown this evening, drop on by to the ACVB Log Cabin and Visitor Center on the corner of 4th Avenue and F Street from 5-7 p.m.  You will have the chance to see the entire “Icons” series in public for the first time.  I will have box sets of the note cards available for sale and, of course, you can purchase the framed prints on display, too.

First Friday Show

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
First Friday Show

“Alaska: A Land Shaped by Water”
Arctic Rose Alaskan Artisan Gallery
Fourth Avenue Market Place
333 W. Fourth Ave., Anchorage
Friday, February 6, 2009
5-8 p.m.

Alaska is known for many things, its majestic mountains, aurora displays, magnificent wildlife, Native culture, and frontier lifestyle. But flowing through, above and below all aspects of Alaska is the omnipresence of water. It is the most ubiquitous force, shaping the shores through the surf, the mountains through rivers and glaciers, and the flatlands through wetlands and muskeg. It affects lifestyles and industry, influencing our way of life throughout the seasons.

Water’s art is all around us. In the golden light reflecting off the ice during a winter sunset, in the ripples and waves in tidal silt and river sand bars, in the crystals that form during frost or snow, water is the ultimate abstract artist. It turns rock, sand, dirt, mountain and all matters of earth into unique, beautiful and ever-changing compositions.

I came to realize this as I examined a sampling of my photos, looking for a common theme in my choices of subject matter. Without fail, I found elements of water in the vast majority of my photos. Rivers, streams, glaciers, ice, surf, inlets, lakes and ponds – they all crept in, making water a silent participant in my photos and in the land.

With this photo exhibition, I celebrate water in all the ways that it shapes this magnificent land. With over six million lakes and over 100,000 glaciers, we are blessed with an abundance of this life-giving, land changing force. Yes, water brings hardship and the pestilence of mosquitoes. But, as we celebrate our fifty years as a state, let us remember to celebrate this force that brings us beauty, awe and wonder.

Happy 50th, Alaska!

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
Happy 50th, Alaska!

Hard to believe, but Alaska has only been a member of this Union for 50 years, as of January 3, 2009. Granted, we purchased Alaska from the Russians in 1867 – you remember “Seward’s Folly” from Social Science class in high school, right? Well, that folly turned out to be evidence of Seward’s vision as to what Alaska could possibly add to this country. It’s funny, though, despite all that Alaska has to offer this country — oil and gas reserves, gold, abundant water supply, vast untapped green energy reserves, and beautiful, unspoiled wilderness — Alaska simply would not be able to stand on its own but for its being a member of the United States of America. When I first moved up here, I was amazed at how many people I heard complaining about taxes. There is no state income tax and no state sales tax. Here in Anchorage, there is no city sales tax. Add to that, Alaskans receive a check from the state each year from the Permanent Fund Dividend. Yet, they complain about taxes. Well, were it not for all of the hundreds of millions of dollars being pumped into this state by the federal government, Alaskans might actually have a reason to complain about taxes because they would really become intimate with a whole variety of taxes.

But, I digress. As part of the big celebration, the state threw a big shindig in downtown Anchorage, complete with a cauldron – not for casting spells but for photo ops – and a fireworks display featuring explosions from the top of three different buildings simultaneously.