I was up in Turnagain Pass last weekend, with a goal of working the flowers in the landscape.  I spent the night with some other photographers at the Granite Creek campgrounds in Turnagain Pass, just a short drive toward Seward from the actual pass itself.  During a recent drive through the area to go rafting on the Kenai, I noticed that the flowers were in abundance.  It turns out, they were just getting started.

A few years ago, my wife Michelle and I went down to the legendary Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg to photograph the wildflowers.  Blue bonnets and Indian paintbrush dominated the landscape, with the occasional white poppy and other flowers.  What we had blooming at the time in Turnagain Pass rivals what I saw in Texas those years ago.  A dense mixture of wild geranium, chocolate lily, yellow paintbrush, northern yarrow, and scattered lupine provided a rich carpet of color.  While it was overcast, the textures in the clouds helped to add some interest to the sky other than a flat white backdrop.  As much as I would have preferred sunshine and some blue skies in there, I was glad it was not raining.

We spent time photographing a cascading waterfall along Bertha Creek, then photographed the meadows for the rest of the evening and again in the morning.  We stayed up late, chatting over a nice fire, enjoying the peace of the woods.  Although we could occasionally hear sounds from the Seward Highway, it was much quieter and removed from the confines of home, where so many devices and distractions can turn quiet into chaos.  Somewhere around 1:30, we turned in, each going to our separate campsites.  The sky was mostly clear by then with the occasional scattered clouds.  I set my alarm for 5:30, hoping that the clearer skies would remain.

When I awoke to flat overcast, I decided it was not worth it to get up and went back to sleep, occasionally waking to see if the skies had improved.  I eventually got up at 7:00 to still flat skies and woke the other photographers.  I had promised them coffee and a breakfast of eggs, bacon and blueberry pancakes.  It was time to get to work.

By the time we left, the skies were starting to again show some texture in the clouds, so landscapes would be possible.  The key to photographing landscapes with cloudy skies is to use a graduated neutral density filter to darken the clouds enough so that they are not blown out and show texture.  We went back to the meadows at the pass for about an hour or so, then headed down to the lily pads near Placer Valley.  Since I had photographed the lilies recently under overcast light, I tried a few new things this time, like photographing a group of leaves floating in the water or capturing some Infrared photos of the scene.  I learned that lily leaves are highly reflective of Infrared light.

And since the lupines were looking good along the Twenty Mile River, we stopped there for one last photo session on the way back to Anchorage.  The Arctic lupine patch that grows there along the highway had been in some decline in recent years.  The last good blooms were before I started shooting digital, which was back in 2004.  This year, however, there was a thick, solid line of lupines along the edge of the tide line, mixed up with the driftwood logs that had taken station along the high tide mark.  As much as the lupines themselves make great accents to any landscape photo, I enjoyed shooting the wood and the slough that runs through the mud from the river.  Again, the slight texture to the clouds helped to make several of the scenes really work nicely.  I keep hoping and waiting for an evening when the sun is out and reaching back into that far corner of the Turnagain Arm, but so far, no luck.  If I miss my opportunity this year, I can only hope that the flowers will be just as good next year.

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