Archive for January, 2009

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.

Bears and blueberries

Monday, January 26th, 2009
Bears and blueberries

The Wilderness Society is going to be looking at Alaska’s national parks closely with an eye toward monitoring climate change and its impact on habitat and species. Just to show that you never know who your end-user will be of a photo when you take it, I was contacted by the Wilderness Society to see if I had any photos that would help them with a web article about the study. They were looking for a shot of brown bears browsing for blueberries in Denali National Park & Preserve. As it turned out, I took just such photos in the Highway Pass area in August of 2004, during a particularly smokey fire season. Here is a link to the piece.

Best of 2008

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

As a photographer, I am always looking to other photographers for ideas on locations, technique, product, even subjects. It’s no secret, even the best look to other photographers for ideas. A few years ago I, and several other photographers, had the pleasure of spending time with Art Wolfe at Katmai National Park & Preserve. One evening, he said that one of the things he likes to do in his spare time, along with tending the Japanese garden at his home in Seattle, is to look at other photographers’ books. Anyway, I was checking out Ron Niebrugge’s blog today, and he had listed a Top 10 photos for 2008, based on a suggestion from another photographer. And so the ball goes around, and here I am posting my favorites for 2008. But, rather than a Top 10, I lacked the discipline to narrow to ten, so here are my Top 12. I found myself emphasizing landscapes a lot this year, particularly in some backcountry areas and through aerial photography. I did a lot of assignment work this year, from a gig with the Navy on the U.S.S. Peleliu to work for the Anthony Robbins Companies. I left those images out to focus mostly on my nature photography. Mostly.

Badlands in depth

Monday, January 12th, 2009
Badlands in depth

This morning I received the good news that I have been selected to serve as the Artist-in-Residence for Badlands National Park this spring. This is going to be an exceptional creative opportunity, as well as a treat to return to my home stomping grounds of West River South Dakota. In my proposal for the residency, I stressed two things: the increased multi-media aspects of being a photographer and the desire to explore more in the backcountry away from the park. So, I will be blogging each day, where possible, of my exploration of the park, reflecting on the features of the land and the creative process. I will also be exploring as much as possible into the wilderness areas of the park, away from the roads. Of course, during those periods, I will not be blogging as I backpack into the backcountry. I will be in the park during the transition from winter to spring, so it should be an active and exciting period for wildlife, dramatic landscapes and flora.

Goodnight, moon

Sunday, January 11th, 2009
Goodnight, moon

I felt a bit out of place when I pulled up to Point Woronzof this morning and saw all of the other people there taking pictures. I say that because I pulled out a tripod and a 500mm lens, when everyone else was just doing a handheld shot with a point and shoot or had a small, wide angle lens camera on a tripod. I knew that in order to get the moon big in the frame, I would have to use the big glass. After getting a few shots I wanted, I took some images to create a panoramic of Mr. Susitna (Sleeping Lady) and the moon (which turns out to be a 100-inch print), then some a wide angle panoramic showing the large sheets of ice flowing in the inlet along with the background scenery. Capturing the moon in the evening, however, was a no-go because of the cloud bank that rolled in from Prince William Sound over the Chugach Mountains to turn the bright, full moon into a diffuse bulb.

Moon chasing

Friday, January 9th, 2009
Moon chasing

One of the better, and lesser known, web resources for any photographer is the U.S. Naval Observatory web site, where, among other things, you can obtain sun and moon data – rise, set, twilight – for any given day, in any given year, in any given location. I have been paying attention to the data for this month’s full moon, and I knew I would be able to get some good sunrise-moonset or moonrise-sunset photos. I misread the data this morning, thinking there would be a moonrise at the same time as sunrise. So, I wasn’t looking at the right place at the right time. But, I rechecked the data, and knew there would be a good chance I could get one of my dream shots of the downtown skyline – the moon looming big behind the mountains with alpenglow on the Chugach and golden light on the city. Using my 300mm lens, I took sixteen vertical panels in RAW to stitch together later in Photoshop. This turns out to be a 70×17 inch print. I am testing CS4, and have found that it’s ability to merge photo files into a seamless panoramic are simply amazing. The other series I did was twenty-eight panels using my 500mm lens. I had to stitch that one together in pieces, doing four separate panels of seven, then stitching together the four larger panels. My duo core processor and 4G RAM simply couldn’t handle that much data at once. Tomorrow morning, I will be heading to Point Woronzof to photo the moon as it sets, just right around sunrise.

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.

Call me crazy, but …

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
Call me crazy, but ...

I really love this cold snap we have been having. Sure, we are in the midst of a record cold snap for a long period of having below-zero Fahrenheit weather, but it makes for gorgeous scenery and great photo opportunities. I have found that my Nikon D300 is holding up surprisingly well in the face of steady below-zero temperatures, so long as I protect my spare battery supply by keeping it close to my body. Sure, it makes things a little challenging because I have to hold my breath while snapping the shutter or the fog of my breath will get in the way, but it is worth it. From a recent portrait session a few weeks ago, I knew that the Glen Alps area would be a great spot for late afternoon light and sunset, so Michelle and I headed up, sporting our new 2009 State Park Pass on the windshield of the truck. Not surprisingly, there were not many people up there despite the beautiful sun — it’s simply too cold for most to be out winter recreating. I stayed up there, shooting the cirque as well as views of Susitna and the Denali-Hunter-Foraker trio, until the sun went down and the temperature dropped.