Last chance for good light

Last chance for good light

With nothing but clouds and rain on the horizon for the next two weeks, I knew that this morning would be my last chance for some decent light in a while.  Sure, I will still find ways to photograph various aspects of our spring break up that is fully and finally underway (for good) here, but they will not be the sort of photos that make getting up at 5:00 a.m. something I could look forward to. 

After dropping Michelle off at the airport (she was heading up to Kaktovik for a night for work), I headed down along my favorite morning location to photograph in the winter months, the Turnagain Arm.  At this time of year, it is about the best place to get morning light that is remotely accessible and within a decent drive from Anchorage.  There was a creek that Michelle had spotted when we were down the Turnagain Arm last weekend, so that was my destination for the morning – just one bridge past the Twenty Mile River bridge.  Unbeknownst to me, as I was taking photos of the first pinks to light up the mountain ridges right at 7:00, a friend of mine and Michelle’s, Sean Ruddy, was on his way to Homer for a meeting and saw me as he passed.  He couldn’t stop to chat because he had a 10:30 meeting – and it was a 3 1/2 hour drive to go from that particular spot. 

After working the creek and the first light on various ridges in the vicinity, I continued on down the Seward Highway toward the base of Turnagain Pass, and turned around.  It was too late to start a drive up into the pass for photos this morning, most of the good light would be done by the time I got to where I would want to photograph.  So, I stopped at the mouth of Placer Valley to photograph a dead spruce tree – standing right on a spot that would be deep with water and water lillies in just a couple of months.  As I crossed the bridge over the Placer River, something caught my eye, so I slowed down, pulled a U-turn, then slowed down to look.  The broken ice floating along the river’s surface was breaking up the reflection of early light on the peak beyond – a perfect shot with just one catch: I would have to set up my tripod in the highway on a bridge with no shoulder.  Fortunately, it was about 7:30 in the morning so traffic was light.  As I captured several images of the scene, only three cars passed by – I waved as they passed.  Two of them waved back. 

As I returned to where I parked my car, I looked upriver along the Placer River and liked what I saw.  Thin, plate-sized sheets of ice were breaking up and gathering along the river’s edge, leaving a leading line of ice sheets as a decorative border.  The sounds the ice made as they rubbed against each other was almost musical – I wished I had brought my digital recorder.  So, I captured what I could of the scene visually, and slowly worked my way back up the Seward Highway toward Anchorage.  As I passed Bird Creek, my peripheral vision caught a composition with the wavy patterns in the tide silt and their broken waters reflecting the far shore and Kenai Mountains.  I finished my shots just as the sun crested over Bird Ridge, shedding light on the scene and taking away most of the drama.  Then, it was officially time to go home.

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