This evening I went up with my nephew, Daniel, in a Cessna 172. We headed up north, following the Susitna River for a good part of the flight. Storm clouds dropped rain to our east, providing rainbows and dramatic lighting for great aerial landscapes. As we approached Denali, it was clear that we would not get great light for all of our flight, as the mountain was partially obscured with clouds. Fortunately, the clouds were above where we were planning on flying into the Ruth Glacier Gorge, so we headed up the gorge in the shade.
There are few areas to fly in Alaska where you can photograph so much diversity of rock, ridge, glacier, gorge, river, lake and whatever other dramatic feature you want to capture in such a small geographic area. The diversity of lines and textures is pretty amazing, such that even in the not-so-best of light like we had, it is still possible to come away with several superb images. I was certainly happy to merely be taking photographs and not trying to fly in what seems like such close quarters after the usual open space that is available in Alaska’s airspace. We followed the basic route of flying up the gorge, then turning around and going back out the same way. Due to the high number of small planes that fly in the area, mostly commercial aerial tour operators, there are several way points where a small plane is required to report its position and direction of travel.
On our way out, we took one little detour over the backside of a small lake on the edge of the glacier, then headed back down to follow the Susitna River on the way back to Anchorage. The evening light was low, casting long shadows on agricultural features in the landscape and sending sparkling shards of light off the braided surface of the river. Pockets of rain on all sides produced rainbows and yellow glows in the air, keeping me and my shutter busy until well after we landed.