Posts Tagged ‘Anchorage’

Finding our way along Campbell Creek

Friday, August 20th, 2010
Finding our way along Campbell Creek

The weather finally let up so that Daniel and I could have a good outing.  After exhausting his appetite for mountains, I decided a good trek would be biking along the Campbell Creek route.  Except, this time, I wanted to take the route all the way to the University, where we could hook up with the Chester Creek system, take that to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and then back down to home.  Yes, it was quite an ambitious route.  But my preconception of how ambitious it was fell far short of reality.

The beginning part of the route is an area I have grown to become quite familiar with in the last couple of years.  After a short jaunt down 88th Avenue, we intersected with the Campbell Creek trail system and headed toward Taku Lake.  From there, we followed the trail, with a slight diversion because it was unclear which path would take us on our intended course, until the Seward Highway.  At that point, with Campbell Creek flowing right next to us, the trail disintegrates into a jumble of rocks and mud leading under the very low hanging highway.  At this point, you have to get off your bike, duck and walk under the bridge.  As Daniel and I were doing this, a group of college students went by – three in a canoe and one in a kayak, wearing a Captain’s hat and a blue blazer over his topless body.  Now there’s a moment when I really wish I had my camera at the ready.

Once we finished our scramble under the highway, we found ourselves back in touch with the Campbell Creek trail system.  It was a treat to explore this area, which runs south of and parallel to Tudor Road.  It was a completely new area, marked with complex metal framed bridges and viewing platforms over the creek.  Although I did not see it on the ride, we passed right near the point where the North and South Fork of Campbell Creek joined to form the main stem of the creek.  Someday, I will go back to this area specifically to find and photograph that convergence.  After a couple of wrong turns, we found ourselves at Elmore Road, leading to the bridge that crosses over Tudor Road and leads to University Lake.  It is the same bridge that dog mushers use during the ceremonial start of the Iditarod as they mush on their way from downtown to the Campbell Science Center to load up their dogs for the trip up to Willow and the official start the next day.

Since I have photographed Iditarod mushers along this stretch of trail before, I knew that the trail winded around the east side of University Lake.  What I did not know, was that this trail on the east side did not readily connect with the trail that would lead me back into the heart of the University and connect us with the Chester Creek trail system, which is what we planned to take down to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  What I also did not know was that this part of the trail was also the notoriously obnoxious dog park I had read about in the paper, where Alaska Pacific University was complaining about unleashed dogs encroaching on its property.  Despite the several signs on the trail forbidding free range dogs, I had to break on numerous occasions for unleashed, unmanaged, free-running dogs whose owners paid no attention to the havoc that their dogs were wreaking upon other trail users.  We passed around the north side of the lake and headed west, looking to connect with the trail and leave the dog frenzy behind.  With one problem solved, another one emerged.

Earlier in the ride, I received a call from Joe Connolly, wondering if I would like to fly up to Denali and do some aerial photography in the Ruth Glacier gorge.  Sure, I said, so long as Daniel could come with.  No problem.  So, I called Michelle and arranged for her to meet us at the Goose Lake parking lot, on the north side of UAA campus near Northern Lights Boulevard.  Little did I know, however, that when we took the trail on the northwest side of University Lake and headed north that we were working our way into a dizzying maze of unmarked mountain bike trails.  At every turn, I took the trail that seemed to be heading in the direction we needed to go, to the northwest.  At one point, we encountered a cow and her two spring calves, forcing us to hang back until they got away from the trail.  There are few worse things to encounter on a bike trail in this town than a cow and her spring calves or calf.

Another phone call, this time from Michelle.  She was at Goose Lake and wondering where we were.  So did I, I told her, mentioning that we were essentially lost in a maze of trails.  After a little while, we found some familiar territory on the edge of the APU campus.  I called Michelle and we arranged to meet over at the UAA Arts building.  But, yet again, we were stalled by a moose, this time a solo cow right on the bike trail.  As we were waiting to clear the moose, Michelle drove by and pulled off to a parking lot so we could load up, head home and shower to get ready for our flight with Joe.  As much as I like adventure, sometimes I just want an uneventful bike ride.  But in Anchorage, so many times a bike ride is more than just a bike ride.

Walk through the park

Friday, June 19th, 2009
Walk through the park

It really is a treat living near Jewel Lake in Anchorage.  When you want to get out and go on some trails, there are a lot of nearby options.  You can go along the Campbell Creek trail system, and from there connect to many other trails; there is a trail near Sand Lake; and then there is Kincaid Park.  Michelle and I decided to head out and explore the biking trails (Nordic ski trails in the winter) that weave in and around the massive wooded areas of Anchorage’s second largest city park.

The park has seen a bit of change in recent years.  They have cleared out several large tracts of land to accommodate numerous soccer fields that are in the process of being built.  Michelle and I were a bit irritated that when we reserved the Kincaid Park chalet for our wedding last year, no one bothered to mention that the entire grounds surrounding it would be torn up for the project.  I am still not sure how I feel about this quiet, near-wilderness area being disturbed by a bunch of soccer games.   I am also not sure of the wisdom of placing soccer fields in the middle of some preeminent moose and black bear habitat.

But, one of the many wonderful things about the park is the flora.  The boreal forest is in prime bloom right now, offering dwarf dogwood (aka bunchberries), blue bells, Arctic rose, and daisies (invasive species, but still pretty).  The devil’s club has fully matured, as well as the cow parsnip, offering up Alaska’s two favorite irritants for plants.  I will take them over poison ivy or poison sumac any day (neither of which we have here in Alaska).  In the autum, the devil’s club will turn a beautiful bright gold, providing a contrast to the red leaves of the rose and high-bush cranberry.

On our way back to the parking lot, we started to make out what sounded like percussion.  As we got closer, it became clear that what we were hearing was Taiko drumming, most likely coming from the bunker that is part of a Nike-Hercules missile site built in 1959.  It still remains standing today and frequently houses a variety of activities.  Today, it was playing host to the Sand Lake Tomodachi Daiko taiko drum group.  They were practicing for a performance on Saturday.

Exploring the coast

Sunday, June 14th, 2009
Exploring the coast

I have teamed up with the Great Land Trust to photograph properties that have been purchased and placed into conservation trust, or properties where the Trust is working on fundraising to purchase to place into a conservation trust. Simply put, the Trust works with private landowners who have property of some greater value to habitat, public use, or some other aspect that makes the property worth while in preserving for public use or conservation.  The Trust raises money to purchase the land, then either maintains ownership of the land and make it available for public or conservation benefit, or donates the land to the state or local government, with the caveat that the property is preserved in a conservation trust, often in the form of a conservation easement.  The Trust will also negotiate with private landowners to obtain a conservation easement over the owner’s land, allowing access to public lands that are otherwise not easily reachable.

I explored one such property on Sunday evening, along the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.  It is a property that is currently in negotiation for purchase, so I will not disclose the location.  My hope is that the images below will help the Trust, as the purchase of this particular property would greatly enhance the recreational experience along the coast in Anchorage.  I have always wanted to explore the refuge, but public access to it is very limited due in no small part to the high bluff that borders most of the refuge area.  The purchase of this property would greatly improve access, allowing others to see what I was able to see in the short time I spent on the property.  From the beautiful sedges and flowers, such as buttercup, Chocolate lilly and wild pea, to the driftwood scattered about the tidal flats, the coastal refuge is both beautiful and expansive.  I wished I had another two hours or so to explore, as I could see open, beckoning space for miles down the coast.  I could hear Sandhill cranes chattering somewhere to the south along the coast, and a variety of other birds such as red neck grebes and Arctic terns.    I also spent a little time with a cow and her new spring calves as they grazed along the tidal stream that ran through the property.

Here are a few images from the evening.

Powerline Pass

Sunday, June 7th, 2009
Powerline Pass

It was one of those irresistible days in southcentral Alaska.  Just hours after I had emailed a friend seeking clothing advice for her mother who was coming up on a cruise, where I told her to be prepared for chilly and that tank tops generally aren’t used in Alaska, Michelle and I were hiking along Powerline Pass in the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage and it was HOT.  Granted, it was probably not hot by Phoenix standards (I am still recovering from landing in Phoenix on May 10 on my way back from South Dakota where it was 100 degrees at sunset), but hot for a guy who has lived in Alaska for ten years now and has acclimated.

But the sun and the warmth drew us, along with hundreds of other Anchorage residents whose cars will spilling out along Toilsome Hill Road outside the Glenn Alps parking lot, to go hike in the mountains.  I took a camera and a few lenses and filters along in my Lowe Pro Orion AW bag, with Gitzo 6X tripod strapped to the bottom.  From the Glen Alps parking lot, you can fan out and access at least five trails of varying lengths and skill levels.  Some of those trails then lead to others, like the trail we took, known as Powerline Pass, which can lead to a traverse trail over into Indian Valley along the Turnagain Arm.

Powerline Pass is aptly named for the series of powerline poles paralleling the trail to the east.  It is a wide, maintained trail suitable for hiking as well as mountain biking.  I slopes down into the wide valley that flows to the south from the parking area, providing spectacular views on both sides of the Chugach Mountains.  It also provides access to some of the best autumn moose viewing in the world.  On this hot, sunny spring day we saw three moose, including two within 50 yards of the trail, one of whom was a young bull.  I was surpised to see as many, as moose are usually bedded down somewhere cool on hot days like this.

I had a particular photo in mind, so much of our hike was finding the right spot for us to hike down and capture it.  I wanted a shot of the South Fork of Campbell Creek providing a nice leading line or S-curve with a prominent peak, still with some snow on it, in the background.  While the still somewhat harsh sunlight was not ideal, the positioning of this valley made it impossible to get light all throughout the valley with either early or late light because the mountains would cast strong shadows at either time of day.  With a warming polarizer and a 2-stop Lee graduated neutral density filter, I was able to subdue the light and enrich the colors enough to compensate.

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.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008
Happy New Year!

So maybe we celebrate a little early in Anchorage. It’s not like we don’t have a long night of darkness in which we could shoot off fireworks. I think perhaps the city fires them off at 8:00 p.m. local time because it is midnight on the east coast. But, here was the scene, earlier this evening, at Town Square Park in downtown Anchorage, at about -10 F, with a hearty crowd of cold-ready Alaskans ready to celebrate the new year.

Midnight at midtown

Sunday, October 12th, 2008
Midnight at midtown

After photographing the wedding of Jenny and Todd at the Anchorage Museum, I stopped by the Loussac Library to photograph the fountain. The lights are pink for the month of October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I was not sure when winter would set in. I wanted to get a nice long exposure on the flowing water. While I was there, I took the typical view, looking from the west side of the fountain to the east, which provides for a nice black background. I switched to this angle because I wanted to give the fountain some context — it is, after all, located at the library. And the Loussac itself is a neat architectural feature, replete with great lines and curves. This image was created from seven individual photos, stitched together using Photomerge in Photoshop CS2.