Archive for December, 2013

Top Images for 2013

Monday, December 16th, 2013
Top Images for 2013

One of the treats of looking back at the year is realizing the diversity of what you captured, and recognizing that each year, something new comes along. This year saw three principal areas of photographic exploration for me: the American Southwest (in winter), the Bristol Bay region and the aurora borealis. And while my aurora borealis prints are definitely my top selling category of print right now, I would be remiss if I did not give the other areas equal weight.  This is especially true for my Bristol Bay images.

In January, Michelle and I were in the American Southwest, starting in Las Vegas (the best place to fly into from Alaska for a visit to the Southwest). We went to Death Valley National Park, Mono Lake, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Unfortunately for us, for the first part of the trip, it was actually colder than our home in Alaska, where we found unseasonably cold weather in Mono Lake and the Moab area. But, for me, it reiterated that winter can be a fantastic time to visit national parks – far fewer people and the opportunity to take some more unique images.

The year’s fieldwork for the book started out in the village of Nondalton, a small community of Dena’ina Athabascans on the edge of Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, and situated only about 11 air miles away from the proposed Pebble Mine site. I photographed some winter scenics, spent some time with a trapper as he checked his trap lines, and went for a snow machine visit to some friends near the mouth of the Chulitna River. Next, in May, I flew out to Dillingham where I met up with Frank Woods and joined him and his crew to head out to the Togiak herring fishery.  Five days on the boat during incredibly clear and gorgeous weather produced a lot of fantastic images of hard work in amazing scenery. In June, I joined a group of Alaska Alpine Adventure clients for a guided backcountry trip into the Twin Lakes area of Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. Next month would find me visiting fish camps on the Newhalen River and out on the Cook Inlet coast visiting the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge to document brown bear viewing and flyfishing. Finally, in September, I flew out and spent a few days with the team at the No See Um Lodge, documenting sport fishing and the incredible scenery of the Kvichak River.

And then, there was the aurora chasing. In March, I was joined by Hawaii photographers CJ Kale and Nick Selway, owners of the Lava Light Galleries in Kona, and Eastern Sierras photographer Nolan Nitschke. After they did a mad-dash run up to Prudhoe Bay, I joined them in photographing the Broad Pass area of the Parks Highway one evening, and then we happened to be in Portage Valley of Chugach National Forest for the incredibly epic St. Patrick’s Day display. And then, this August, September and November, I was out again capturing more images in the vicinity of Anchorage to build up my aurora borealis image collection.

And then, there were a few things here and there that rounded out the year.  Countless incredible Cook Inlet sunsets photographed from the deck of my new home on the Anchorage hillside. A jaunt out to Prince William Sound for a reality TV show episode. A flight to do some aerial photography of properties in the Knik Arm area for Great Land Trust. Exploring fall colors in Southcentral Alaska.

You can view the totality of my “Best Of” selection in my 2013 Year in Review gallery, but here are my some highlights from my favorite images from the year.

Big Cover

Sunday, December 15th, 2013
Big Cover

In 2007, I had the pleasure and honor of serving as the Artist-in-Residence for Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve. Located in the central Brooks Range, Gates of the Arctic is the second-largest national park in the country, and the only national park that has no roads, no public facilities, and is almost entirely protected wilderness area under the 1964 Wilderness Act. I was the first photographer to serve in that capacity.

It was my first time above the Arctic Circle.  Even though I had lived in Alaska for eight years at that point, I had never been north of Healy, which is just about 20 minutes to the north of the entrance to Denali National Park & Preserve.  I had, as a result, also never been to Fairbanks. For my artist residency, I drove not only as far north as Fairbanks, but all the way to Coldfoot, located at mile 175 of the Dalton Highway (aka, “The Haul Road”). At the conclusion of my two week trip into the Gates backcountry as part of my residency, the pilot who picked me and my guide (NPS Ranger Tracy Pendergrast) flew us past the Arrigetch Peaks so I could do some aerial photography of the region.  That trip would instill in me a passion for the Arctic, particularly the Brooks Range, that would lead to another four trips to the park and spark a project that will lead to the first photo book dedicated to the park.

Six years later, one of those shots of the Arrigetch Peaks would find its way to the cover of a book written about the exploration of the central Brooks Range, “Arctic Citadel: A History of Exploration in the Brooks Range Region of Northern Alaska” by National Park Service historian, Chris Allen. As you explore through the early pages of the book, you will find several more images of mine from various trips into the Gates. The timing of the release of the book could not be better: this winter I will complete my Bristol Bay book fieldwork and can resume work on my Gates of the Arctic book. Read more about the book in this article by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

And while this is not my first photo on a book cover, the fact that it is a book about one of my favorite places on the planet makes it a special cover for me.

December 2013 Print of the Month

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
December 2013 Print of the Month

One of the challenges as a photographer, artist, and business owner has always been answering the following question: “Which images do I create as prints for sale?” Each part of these different identities always wants to get its own perspective represented in the choice.  The photographer wants to print the photos that were the most physically demanding, most technically challenging to capture. The artist wants to print the image that is the most emotionally evocative, most inspirational. And then of course, the business owner wants to print the one that will sell the most. Merging those sometimes competing interests into a smart choice has always been difficult.

And then came along social media.

Using Facebook to promote my photography often gives me a clear indication as to which images are going to have a broad appeal. Following the traffic generated by a particular image can make it much easier to decide which image will likely make a good selection for, say, my Print of the Month collection.  Take in point, this month’s choice, entitled, “They’re Here.” Captured during the November 8/9, 2013 aurora borealis display, it is a view of a winding green band of aurora through some leafless birch trees in Portage Valley of the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. It was the last shot I took of the evening, as I was heading back to my car to head toward home. I looked up, saw the orientation of the trees and the glowing aurora, and knew I had something good. It was challenging to frame the shot with the camera pointed straight upward, but the settings were already good from exposures made earlier in the evening.

But seeing the reaction to the image on Facebook helped me to better understand better how much appeal it had to a broad audience. It received a moderate reaction on my own Facebook page – 36 shares, 124 likes and 24 comments.  But then it was shared to two other Facebook pages with very broad audiences: Milky Way Scientists and Aurora Borealis. Between those two, it garnered an additional 1,801 shares, 6,744 likes and 75 comments.

So, photographer, artist and business man can all agree – with resounding support from social media -that “They’re Here” will make a fine addition to my Print of the Month collection. And another great thing about this shot … it can be either a vertical or a horizontal image, depending on your layout needs.  It can be purchased for 30% off through the end of December 2013 by entering the coupon code POTM1213 when finalizing your purchase here.

On Darmok

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013
On Darmok

I have increasingly been including my car, a 2010 Toyota Prius, in photos taken during my nighttime forays into aurora chasing. After doing it a few times, I decided I needed to come up with a name for the car.  I figured, in the interest of more colorful captioning, a name would be a good addition to the photo’s story.

I realized early on that I did not want to select a human name.  Part of it was that I wanted to avoid a gender-specific name.  Who am I to say what my car’s sexual identity is? Only it knows that sort of detail, and fortunately it does not share it with me. So I thought that I would look to legends and mythology, seeking out a name that would be synonymous with “friend” or “companion” or “buddy.” Some good ideas came out at first, and I even solicited ideas from the general public.  In the end, though, the idea I settled on came from a Tweet.

I was reading my Twitter feed one day, and I saw a Tweet from Wil Wheaton (@wilw) that referenced “Darmok” from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I knew then that I had chosen my car’s name.

If you are not familiar with the episode, “Darmok” aired during the 5th season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” I will leave the full episode synopsis for your reading pleasure.  The highlight is that the Enterprise crew makes first contact with a race calling themselves “The Children of Tama.” Captain Picard is forcibly removed from the Enterprise to meet up with the other ship’s captain, Dathon, on the planet below.  It takes Picard a while to figure out what the other race’s intentions are because they communicate entirely through metaphor, drawn upon the stories of their own myths and legends.  Quite frequently, the other captain uses the phrase, “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”  Darmok and Jalad were mythohistorical figures who met on the island of Tanagra and worked together to defeat a terrible beast, something that Dathon had hoped he could do with Picard in order to build relations.

So, naturally, I envisioned posting on Facebook or Twitter things like, “Darmok and Carl, on the road.” So, my first Tweet on my first aurora outing after the naming was, in fact, “Darmok and Carl, on the road. The aurora borealis, its sails unfurled.” Of course, you would have to have seen the episode to understand the “sails unfurled” reference.  I recommend you find it and watch it if you can.  It is definitely among the top ten of all episodes generated by the “Star Trek” franchise.