Despite what has been drummed into our collective consciousness over the last seven years, it is patriotic to protest the government. Were that not the case, our Founding Fathers would not have enshrined into the very first amendment to our Constitution the right to freedom of speech, the right to assembly, and the right to petition the government for redressing of wrongs. Yet, certain people of a particular political party try to tell us that if we question the government, or question the choices of a particular executive, then we are un-American, un-patriotic and/or aiding our enemies. Obviously, these people are not familiar with their Constitution, not familiar with the decisions by the United States Supreme Court that place political speech at the top of the speech podium, providing it the highest level of protection and absolutely prohibiting any government restrictions absent an extremely compelling objective. It has been a pleasure in the last few weeks to see progressives and liberals out protesting in public in Anchorage, in numbers as high as 1,800, when just a few years ago such a thing would be unheard of in the conservative stronghold that is Alaska. Here, approximately 1,500 protesters joined to express their disapproval of Governor Sarah Palin’s refusal to cooperate with a legislative investigation into her alleged abuses of power, and calling for the resignation of the Alaska Attorney General, who, contrary to the law and his ethical obligation as an attorney, has instructed his clients to not respond to legislative subpoenas.
Archive for September, 2008
When I told people all this year that I was getting married, the one thing that people consistently asked was, “Who is taking the photos?” My response: “Not me.” While I had already planned to leave my camera home and not even take candid photos after the ceremony, my then-fiance, now-wife, Michelle often reminded me that a camera might meet a violent end if it came with me to the ceremony. So, I took a break from taking photos on September 20 so that I could get married to a wonderful woman who wandered into my gallery a little over two years ago. Although it was raining on the day of our ceremony, we took time off with our photographer, Amber, the Friday after our ceremony when the weather improved to take some photos. I imagine this will be the only time I post a photo in this blog that is not mine.
Above, a gun boat fires a sonic shot into the water as a PGS employee observes the sonic boom register as a red bar on monitors inside the seismic survey barge several hundred yards away.
The primary operations for PGS Onshore in the Beaufort Sea near Oliktok Point consist of seismic surveys that involving laying out long lines of cable on the ocean floor and firing air guns into the water. The air guns create a pressure wave that goes down and bounces off the subsurface topography of the ocean floor, then comes back up. The cables measure the bounce back signal from the subsurface topography to determine if any formations might be viable for development. Here, crews from a Reliance boat haul in the cable in a manner very similar to hauling in fish lines and nets. In fact, many of the crews are former operators of shrimp boats in Louisiana.
One day you are in the backcountry of some of the best wilderness in the United States, the next you are at the heart of Alaska’s oil and gas infrastructure, Prudhoe Bay, or the North Slope. Therein is the life of a photographer sometimes. I was very intrigued in my first glimpses of the North Slope, where I was on assignment for PGS Onshore, Inc., a seismic survey company based in the United States out of Houston. Its parent company, PGS, is based out of Norway. My assignment took me to the main community of Deadhorse, then an additional 1 1/2 hour drive out to Oliktok Point to the ENI camp. ENI Petroleum Co., Inc. is the national oil company for Italy. As I arrived later in the evening, I knew I would not start my assignment until the next day. So, I spent some time exploring the grounds of the camp and photographing some of the nearby infrastructure. This is an image of the ENI camp.
As we were heading out of the park, I had put my camera down and was settling in for a short nap on the way back to Bettles. I looked down and saw the cascade of shadows and light washing across the stacked ridges of the Brooks Range, a classic image of these rugged mountains. I had Curt turn just a little bit so I could get the right angle and shoot around the wing support struts.
Early famous for its rock climbing opportunities, the Arrigetch Peaks region of Gates of the Arctic is one of the more iconic locations in the park. It is a popular destination, accessible only by backpacking from a float plane drop off near the Alatna River. It is spectacular to photograph from the air, and I look forward to one day backpacking up in there and spending about a week exploring the area. When the right golden light hits these granite peaks, the Arrigetch Peaks truly represent some of the best in landscape beauty for a photographer to examine.
So, we were able to get our arrangements made to have Bettles Air pick us up at Lake Kavacharak, a common pickup and drop off point in the Noatak National Preserve, at around 3:00 p.m. Wanting to make sure we had plenty of time to portage the gear from the river to the lake, we arrived at the lake at around noon, and had everything portaged by a little after 1:00. We treated ourselves to a hot lunch, and I relaxed against a large dry bag, reading “The Blue Bear.” We knew that our ride would not be there on time – bush taxis never are – but we were not quite prepared for the 3 hours and 40 minutes late that Bettles Air eventually was. Curt was at the wheel, of course, and helped us to quickly get loaded and get up in the air. As we flew back toward Bettles, I became increasingly pleased at the late pick up, as the light was starting to get rather spectacular. As we flew near Mount Igikpak and through the Arrigetch Peaks, I quickly filled the compact flash card in my camera. I wished we could stay out more and capture more aerial photos from this end of the park, but knew we had to get back. As it was, we landed and had the plane unloaded just in time for the sunset.
I arise earlier than I want because I can no longer resist the call of nature. I find that a thick fog has developed along the river and some of the small lakes tucked in behind some bluffs away from the river. The light of dawn is peeking through, adding muted pastels to the sky and creating some wonderful compositions, just waiting for me to capture them. My tripod is really stiff and can only be coaxed through the help of my Gerber tool. I photograph for a while, then go back to my sleeping bag. About an hour later, the sun makes its first appearance, but strongly muted through the fog, creating a great opportunity for photographing the disk itself.
It is our last night of the trip, as we have arrived near our take out point about a day early and expect to be picked up in the afternoon, rather than the next morning. After spending a day within the Noatak Preserve I am not particularly interested in staying longer. The land is flat, featureless, and lacking the many details I had enjoyed upriver. But my nightly routine takes me out of the tent just before two, and I look up to see one of the more spectacular aurora displays of the trip. Fortunately, I am ready for it. My gear is a bit more reluctant as this also happens to be the coldest night of the trip. As with the other nights, though, the lights fade relatively quickly after I capture a few images. I have to wonder … am I really hitting them at their peak, or have the displays been brighter, and I am actually catching them on the downhill slide? I can never know, but am still happy to have finally had the chance to photograph the aurora out in the backcountry.