Book Launch Party!

14-Bear Tooth logo -colorJoin me on Monday, November 28th, 5:30pm, at the Bear Tooth Theater, for a grand celebration of the Alaska Range. I, along with  Legendary adventurer Roman Dial, visionary alpinist Clint Helander will be some exciting giving presentations.

There is a $4 cover charge, which will be donated to the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.

And don’t forget to order your book, they are shipping now!

Limited Edition Book Revealed!

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Limited edition version. Only 150 copies will be printed!

Super excited to reveal the limited edition version of the book. Only 150 copies of this version will be printed and they are going fast! This book also comes with the print, Middle Triple Peak, 2015. This image will only be available with the book. Once the edition is sold out, the image will be retired, never to be printed again!

If you want one of these awesome collector books, consider pre-ordering one. Many of them have already been purchased (through our Kickstarter campaign and directly from me). I cannot guarantee any will be left when the book becomes available in late October.

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Middle Triple Peak.This is the image that comes with the Limited Edition book. Only 150 copies of the book and this image will be printed, then this image will be retired, never to be printed again! 11×17 image on 13×19 paper. Printed by Carl on archival, cotton paper.

The cost of the limited edition book-print set is $200.00 plus shipping. You can order one directly from me, just email carl@photographalaska.com

Alaska Range book update and Denali National Park Photo Workshop.

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First, I must apologize for the lack of activity. Its been a busy winter, but not a lot of action outside in the mountains. Still trying to recover from my hip injury that occurred over a year ago. Fortunately, being injured has allowed me to focus on getting the book details complete.

We are in the final stages of the process. All the essays are complete and edited. layout is complete and I just sent off my high resolution copies of the final photographs. We will have one more thorough review, looking for any missed issues before it is sent off to get printed!

The Mountaineers Books feels confident the book will be in stores and into YOUR hands in October.

Mark your calendars for the big book launch party November 28th at the Bear Tooth Theater, it is going to be a ton of fun!

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Unnamed mountains reflected in Lima Bean Lake (local name), Denali National Park and Preserve

Want to join me in the Alaska Range? We still have spaces left during  our July 30th-August  2nd, Denali National Park, wilderness photography workshop. Fly with me into a remote location, in the heart of the big mountains, where we will explore glaciers, rivers and epic mountain scenery! More info at: http://www.alaskaalpineadventures.com/alaska-adventure-tours/hiking/hiking-trips-denali-national-park/denali-unexplored-photo-safari/trip/43

Thanks for all your patience and support!

Carl

The Revelation Mountains

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The mighty Mount Hesperus, taken from the East. Revelation Mountains, Alaska

There isn’t a cluster of mountains in the Alaska Range that holds as much mystery and intrigue as the Revelation Mountains. When I look up the statistics for this site, the most popular search term is”Revelation Mountains”. And yet with so much interest, there is very little information about this mighty anchor of granite spires at the far western corner of the Alaska Range.

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Unnamed rock glacier, Revelation Mountains

My first visit to the Revelation Mountains was in June of 2006. Six of us did a long backpack along the western edge, over rolling tundra and below towering monoliths. It was one of the best backpacking trips I have done in Alaska, rivaling the mighty Arrigetch Peaks in the Brooks Range.

In 2006, beta about the range was completely vacant. The only written information I could find was in old American Alpine Journals. The most prominent entry was the legendary 1967 Harvard Mountaineering Club expedition. The six members, which included David Roberts and Alaskan Art Davidson, spent 52 days struggling up peaks and enduring mind boggling bad weather. Many of the named peaks like: The Angel, South Buttress and Golgotha, that appear on USGS maps, can be attributed to that expedition.

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Looking west towards the Lime Hills, Revelation Mountains

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West side of Babel Tower (unclimbed) and The South Buttress (one ascent, west side unclimbed). Revelation Mountains

I learned early on that the Babel Tower, which is south of, the South Buttress, had obviously used its power of “confusion of tongues” and totally scrambled the mind’s of the map designers. The names on the maps are all mixed up. The 1:63 maps are correct but the 1:250 maps are completely off.

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The unclimbed west face of the Angel. Yes that perfect coulior has not been climbed or skied. It was, however, descended in the dark by Clint and partner after the peak’s second ascent.

In 2008, the young Alaskan alpinist, Clint Helander, made his first expedition into the Revelations, making a bold first ascent. He has climbed in the range every year since. Clint has become the guru of Revelations climbing and the Revelation Mountains recent surged in popularity can be directly linked to his many, wild exploits. If you have questions about climbing in the Revelations, he is the man.

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The beginning of the Swift River, Revelation Mountains

The area’s remoteness has contributed to its mystery. Access to the range is difficult and expensive. The range is also unfriendly to visitors. The terrain in very rough, glaciers are broken and littered with debris, rivers are milky, swift and cold, the alders are relentless and plentiful. For non-climbers, the only pleasurable terrain, is along the perimeter of the range, especially the west side. The backpacking there is superb, on easy tundra, with lots of wild critters. We enjoyed sharing the landscapes with bears, caribou and countless ground squirrels.

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Lichen and Ground Squirrel skull, Revelation Mountains

The Sled Pass area has some limited options, it is a beautiful spot, but you quickly get “cliffed” out or must endure endless, character building bush-whacks. Pack-rafts have been used to escape the endless bushes. The far north side looks promising, but access is unknown, and so are the mountains there. If you are looking to truly disappear in Alaska’s mountains, the north end of the Revelations is the place, you just have to get there. The heart of the Revelation Mountains is a place for experienced mountaineers, many of which, have been completely crushed by the mountains there.

 

Summer access is either by float-plane (if your going to backpack along the west side), Super Cub on tundra tires or the almighty helicopter (TAT has one now!). If your climbing, you want to go in winter or early spring, when there is plenty of ice plastered to the crappy rock. Ski landings are possible on the majority of the glaciers, until mid-May or so.

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Nameless river that feeds into the Post River, Revelation Mountains

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The Amazing Mount Hesperus being engulfed by clouds, Revelation Mountains.

If the thought of travelling in one of Alaska’s most remote and pristine mountain regions intrigues and terrifies you, you could consider going on a guided trip with Alaska Alpine Adventures, the only backpacking guide service with real experience in the Revelations Mountains.

 

 

 

We did it!

Amazing ice and Mount Hess and Deborah.

Amazing ice and Mount Hess and Deborah.

Thanks to everyone for all your support, it was an amazing process.

Here are some statistics:

89 backers

$15,505 raised

172% funded (percentage above our minimum of $9,000)

The video was played 988 times.

So now what?

I have made my initial selection of 200 images that has been sent to the Mountaineers Books. They have begun the layout and design process and will make their initial selection of images. I will visit them in Seattle in a few weeks where I will help with the final image selection and also give my input on the design and layout.

From there we will continue to hammer through design ideas, ruthlessly edit the essays and work on the maps. I will make the final tweaks on the selected images. When we have all agreed on a book we all love, it will be sent to the printers. We will get a proof first, this is how we will catch any typos, design issues and poorly reproduced images.

Once the proof is approved the book will get printed, bound and sent to The Mountaineers Books distribution center in Seattle.

This process will take many months. We plan to see the book on the shelves late summer, 2016. This is when we will ship all the books to the backers of the Kickstarter campaign.

This blog/website will be getting an over haul. Don’t worry, it will not go dormant. There are plenty of peak profiles and images to share, along with photography and wilderness tips. Once the book is printed, this blog/site will be the center of all the action, letting you know about upcoming lectures, exhibits, book signings, workshops and hopefully reviews and awards!

So if you want to stay in the loop, follow the blog!

Thanks again for all your support and for making this long over due tribute to the Alaska Range a reality.

Carl

Caught in the Kichatna Mountains

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Flying into the Tatina Glacier. There is something wrong with this picture.

My stomach ached, a combination of hunger and anxiety. The clouds were creeping lower down the monoliths, the wind gust were increasing in velocity. After four days of relentless weather, a window had opened, an escape from the clutches of the mountain gods was revealed, but our chances were dwindling. We had packed our bags, waiting for that unmistakable sound, the roar of an approaching plane.

After thirty Alaska fly in expeditions under my belt, I was highly aware of the plane waiting game and my mind was so familiar with that sound, that it had began to recreate it, knowing how desperately I wanted to hear it.

“I think I hear something.” I projected loudly to Sy. But there was nothing. Defeated, I began to unpack and prepare for another night of being shaken and stirred in our tiny tent. But then, the lion roared.

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Legendary Mountains. North Triple and Middle Triple Peaks.

The Kichatna Mountains are legends. I had heard of them long before moving to Alaska. I listened to stories and dreams told over fire and beers. My big wall climbing friends were always planning a trip, but never committing, the Kichatnas were to be celebrated and feared. When I moved to Alaska, I met very few people who had ever set foot on their glaciers. A few years ago I flew around them and was blown away by their steepness. It is said that the Kichatna Mountains have the highest concentration of granite spires in Alaska, and I have no doubt about that. The spires of the Kichatna Mountains are so densely concentrated that flying around them didn’t do them justice. I don’t like aerial photography from above the mountains. I like to be eye level, mid mountain,  which isn’t possible in the Kichatnas, the valleys are too narrow. So the only way to really experience the majesty and boldness of the peaks and to capture their true nature was to be in  mountains.

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Middle Triple Peak. This beauty could push Mount Russell off the top of the ” Most beautiful peaks in the Alaska Range” list.

I had hesitated for many years on going to the Kichatnas. They are very remote and a flight there is expensive. But the main reason I resisted their power was their unfriendliness towards visitors. The Kichatna Mountains are the prow of the mighty, central Alaska Range ship and take the brunt of all the weather coming from both the south and the west. The winds in the mountains are said to rival the notorious winds of Patagonia. Extended tent time is common for all expeditions. Alaska: A Climbing Guide reads: “Prepare for only three pleasant days in thirty of horizontal rain, sleet and snow. The Kichantas are a ornery bunch.”

We landed on the Tatina Glacier on a perfect day. We knew it was special weather because Paul, our pilot, was enjoying the scenery and taking pictures. We could tell he would have preferred to join us that day and we could feel his unhappiness about leaving the mountains.

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Sy exploring an icefall below Flat Top Spire.

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I think we will have dinner on the patio tonight.

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Last light on the north face of Flat Top Spire.

We made camp in the amphitheater at the head of the Tatina Glacier. Granite exploded out of the glaciers in every direction, with the mighty North and Middle Triple Peaks dominating all the others. That afternoon we explored the valley and icefall below the north face of Flat Top Spire. The next day was a little hazy but still calm and clear. We skied up over Monolith Pass, the most impressive pass I have ever been over. Imagine three El Capitan’s towering above you, so close together you feel like you could throw a rock between them. The peaks of the pass are Mount Nevermore, North and Middle Triple Peaks.

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This image doesn’t capture the immense scale here. Monolith Pass.

On the third day we descended Tatina Glacier. Our plan was to go down and around to the Cul-De Sac Glacier, spend a day or two there and then to the Shadows Glacier to get picked up. The descent was long, but enjoyable with great skiing. My new, rigid sled system worked great but Sy had a lot of trouble with his set up. At the bottom of the glacier was a large frozen lake. We decided to camp there. My leg was hurting after the long descent (this chronic condition is still bothering me!). The scenery was nice and it was obvious there were lots of animals that used the area and I was hopeful that we might get to photograph some wildlife, but we had no visitors.

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Sy skiing down the Tatina Glacier, Mount Jeffers looms above.

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Frozen lake at the toe of the Tatina Glacier.

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Huge, loose moraine. Obvious sign of recent glacial retreat.

The next day we crossed over to the Cul-De Sac Glacier and gradually made our we to the base of the mighty Kichatna Spire. The Kichatna Spire was hidden under a cap of grey, swirling clouds. It would remain that way for the rest of the trip, I never got a chance to see it in its entirely.

We set camp up under worsening conditions. The wind came in rushes. You could hear it coming right before it slammed you down. The next four days were a lesson in patience as the wind continued without a break. We kept in contact with our pilot who continued to ask how much snow we were getting? Denali, 50 miles to the north was getting hammered, with over three feet of new snow at base camp. But we were only getting wind, relentless wind.

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Sy, master of snow wall construction.

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Block Party

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Cold ice and warm rock.

Saturday, our pick up day arrived. A huge “sucker” hole lingered above, triggering a sense of hope that we might get picked up, but the wind refused to submit, it was determined to keep us hostage. We spent the day repairing walls, napping and watching the red, low battery signal on our ipods, trying to guess which song would be our last.

We emptied our thinning food bags and began the process of rationing food. We had passed the option of skiing out, we definitely had to rely on the mechanical bird for rescue, the question was, how long could we stretch our food? Actually, the more concerning part was whether we had enough fuel to melt water?

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Our life for five days.

We experimented with using black bags and sleds to melt water, which worked with limited success. The next day was much of the same. My nerves were on edge. Unable to travel or photograph in the conditions, stuck waiting for pick up, with limited supplies, was wearing me down. Sy continued, as always, to be up beat and unphased our predicament, laughing at my dwindling patience and pessimistic outburst. We could see the summits of most peaks and the valley was clear. However, our pilot said it was raining in Talkeetna and when he looked towards the Kichatnas, all he could see was low, black clouds. We could sense that he was not believing that we were having favorable weather. I am sure they have been tricked by many, desperate climbers.

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Weather improves just enough to reveal some of the beauty that’s been hiding in the clouds. Riesenstein Spire.

We spoke with the flight service in the afternoon and they said they would give it a try. We prepared the runway and packed up all but the tent. Sy skied around and I sat with my camera, making poor, uninspired images of the amazing peaks. Hours passed as we watched the clouds lower and felt the gusts of wind increase, building more strength as if fueled by our desire to leave.

As soon as I began unpacking I heard a noise. The wind I figured. Then again. Loud then soft. And then the unmistakable, beautiful whine of a plane engine bounced off the granite walls. We both went into the “plane is coming” frenzy, I rushed to take down the tent, Sy rushed down runway to pick up the sleds and bags after the plane landed.

At times the trip seemed like an eternity. I was disappointed with my attitude, the mountains had worn me down, my leg was still hurting, my project was nearing its end and i felt helpless, unable to control my life.

The flight away from the mountains is often a time of reflection. There is a great, overwhelming release, followed by sadness. I have yet to understand why the mountains play the tricks they do with my mind, why they can sometimes repulse me with their weather and yet fully engulf me with their beauty.

No matter how terrible or amazing my trips are in the mountains, as soon as I am leaving, as soon has I am above them, heading back to civilization, I am plotting my return.

To Sled or Not to Sled?

Sleds and alders=Fun!

Sleds and alders=Fun!

Sleds, or ski pulks, have been part of my Alaska explorations for as long as I can remember. And like most explorers of snowy regions, I have a love-hate relationship with them. The terrain I may encounter is the primary factor when deciding on whether to bring a sled or not. Is there steep terrain? Will there be lots of bush whacking? Heavily crevassed glaciers? Dirt? So many possibilities can be encountered traveling through Alaska’s mountains.

On long, mellow trips, over easy to moderate terrain, with extensive winter gear and camera equipment, the comfort and ease of a sled is hard to beat. Two trips this spring warrant the use of sled, long glacier ski tours. One trip, to the Eldridge Glacier, has some big crevasses, but its early season and they should pose little difficulty. The second trip, to the Kichatna Mountains, should also be perfect for sleds.

This is the terrain that sled were meant for. The Black Rapids Glacier, during a 2006 traverse.

This is the terrain that sleds were meant for. The Black Rapids Glacier, during a 2006 traverse.

I have many times, brought a sled when I should have brought a big pack. What looks good on the map, doesn’t always translates to reality. A short, steep, alder choked slope can be a nightmare, taking literally hours to negotiate. Whenever there is a possibility of coming across bushy terrain, I make sure I have a good system for carrying my sled on my back.

Mountaineers are notorious for overloading sleds, paying very little attention to their design or the packing of them. I have been learning lessons from many of my winter, distance racing friends, and I have decided to give my sled an overhaul. The goal is to make it more streamlined and less haphazard. I will also be switching to a fully rigid system (designed by skipulks.com) removing the annoying slack that has the sled chasing, and frequently crashing into me, or passing me or worse of all, rolling down every hill or bump.

Overloaded, this is my sled on a ski traverse of the Kahiltna Glacier in 2013. Its way too top heavy and I am not using all the space in the sled. I plan to fix this problem this year.

Overloaded! This is my sled on a ski traverse of the Kahiltna Glacier in 2013. Its way too top-heavy and I am not using all the space in the sled. I plan to fix this problem and reevaluate my sled packing and design.

I will post images of my revamped sled on the #photographalaska facebook and Instagram pages so make sure your following them if your interested. Or course, full trip reports will be posted here on the blog when I return.

Mountain Profile: Mount Russell

North ridge of Mount Russell, Denali National Park and Preserve

North ridge of Mount Russell, Denali National Park and Preserve

In the far western corner of Denali National Park and Preserve towers a peak of unrivaled beauty, Mount Russell. Unknown by the majority of Alaskans, only those who search out such beauty know of its presence. Mount Russell is a classic, pyramid shaped peak, with crumbling black rock and dripping, fractured glaciers that defy gravity.

At 11,670 feet in height, Mount Russell isn’t super tall, but it remoteness and miserable weather make it a challenge to climb. The first ascent was in 1962 via the south ridge and ten years later, in 1972, the north ridge was climbed. The north ridge is now considered the “standard” route. Both Alaska climbing guides feature Mount Russell and its north ridge route and yet, the mountain sees maybe one ascent every couple of years. The loose, steep and terrible looking east face was climbed once and for those looking for a true adventure, the awesome west face is still unclimbed.

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South Ridge and the wicked east face of Mount Russell.

There are two ways to see Mount Russell from land. One is to land on the Yentna Glacier near the base of the North Ridge. The other is to land on the remote Purkey Pile strip and hike a few days to get a fantastic view.

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The sunlit west face of Mount Russell, the north ridge splits the light and dark. The west face still awaits an ascent and even a ski descent…hint hint.

Personally, Mount Russell is one of those mountains that is best appreciated either by climbing it or by the air, where you can truly admire its shapely demeanor.

Chasing the Northern Lights in the Alaska Range

Wild Aurora over Denali.

Wild Aurora over the Tokosha Mountains, Mount Hunter and Denali.

I have never been a fan of roadside photography or images of iconic places during “perfect” light. I like to photograph the unfamiliar, I like the challenge of the unknown. Don’t get me wrong, I am a diligent trip planner, I can spend months looking at maps and Google Earth. But once I am in the field, I like to just “go with the flow”, work with what the wilderness gives me.

However, I am a professional photographer and sometimes I need to “go after” a shot. I have been on over twenty expeditions in the Alaska Range and have never had a chance to photograph the Aurora Borealis. It’s not that I haven’t seen them, I have, but I never had an opportunity to photograph them. I was hoping to photograph them on last year’s Gillam Glacier trip. We had seven days of crystal clear skies and the setting was perfect, with towering peaks in all directions, but the lights refused to dance for me.

Part of me just wanted to let it go, to forget about them, but I decided that the Aurora did play a part in the Alaska Range story and should be included, so I decided to go “Aurora Chasing”.

I watched the weather forecast and the aurora forecast simultaneously, looking for the perfect combination. Last weekend, the two lined up and I felt I would have a good chance of photographing them. It was also a full moon, which was perfect for illuminating the mountains but also required that I put extra effort into finding a good foreground, something many night photographers overlook.

I seduced my two regular partners in adventure crime, Opie and Sy and we headed up to Denali State Park, the closet access point into the Alaska Range from Anchorage.

Up to that point, we had a record-setting warm fall and winter. I had a feeling that there would be some open water, which could act as an interesting foreground. We arrive at the South Denali Overlook around 11:00. It was stunning, super clear with the mountains exploding out of the ground. I was tempted to stay high, with unobstructed views. It would be easy to head up higher towards Curry Ridge or Kesugi Ridge, we had skis and sleds, but I wanted something different.

Moving river ice and the last light on Denali.

Moving river ice and the last light on Denali.

I could see that the Chulitna River was open with moving ice in it, that was what I was looking for. Dropping down to the river would mean we would lose many of the mountains, so it was important we found a spot with plenty of open space.

We loaded up sleds and packs, leaving the skis behind. It was a crisp 0F at the car and we knew that it would be a solid 10 degrees colder down by the river. We post holed and bush-whacked our way down the steep cliff to the river floor. Within a few minutes we found a perfect spot for camp and photography.

The Chulitna River was really flowing and was deep and swift. It was pretty scary, being that close to it. I truly hate cold water and the thought of making a stupid mistake at 4 in the morning, like getting too close to the edge and busting through the ice was very unappealing. There was a lot of thin ledges of over hanging ice with deep water underneath, I even put a foot through some ice, that I thought was thick enough and far from the open water, I was wrong. I spent a good amount of time scouting locations, marking safe places where I could set up. It was similar to the precautions I make on glaciers, when our camp is surrounded by crevasses, I mark safe areas to photograph for late at night and when I am tired.

We were amazed how quickly the day ends in January, before we knew it, the mountains were bathed in beautiful pink light. The pink light was quickly replaced by the white light of the amazing moon, so bold and powerful. The shadows of the trees stretched with its arrival.

Around 5:00PM we decided to begin brewing hot drinks and food. We couldn’t get the stove lit, for some reason the bottle wouldn’t hold pressure. Turning on our headlamps (the moon was so bright, we didn’t really need them) we realized that fuel was pouring out pump, total failure. We didn’t bring a second pump because this was just a quick, overnight trip.

We decided to go old school and make a fire. Opie and Sy went into the willows and alders like ravenous beavers, dragging out log after log of dead wood.

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The fire worked well and before we knew it, hot food and drinks were plentiful. We kept the fire sizzling the rest of he night.

The first glimpse of the lady Aurora showed as a gentle glow north behind the mountains. With each hour it would move higher into the sky and quicken its movements.

Photographing the aurora is not easy. Of course, modern cameras are amazing and have greatly simplified and improved the quality of aurora photography. A quick search online and you realize how popular aurora photography is.

Aurora over Denali and the Chulitna River on a full moon night.

Aurora over Denali and the moving ice in the Chulitna River on a full moon night.

Because of the bright moon, I wanted to include some nice foreground. My first challenge was to get decent depth of field in the image. The other challenge was to have a quick enough shutter to stop the dancing aurora. Too long of an exposure and the aurora becomes more of a smooth splash of color instead of dancing swirls and waves.

Huge aurora band over Denali.

Huge aurora band over Hunter and  Denali.

I kept my ISO around 800 and stopped the lens to about F4. This gave exposures around 4-6 seconds, really fast for night photography, that was because of the full moon and the reflected light off the snow. A few images I stopped down to f5.6, but then the exposures became 15 seconds and the aurora was less defined, I increased the ISO to 1600, the max I am happy with on my d800e, which quickened the exposure but there was some detail loss in the mountains.

Critical focus is key with night photography. The infinity mark on most AF lenses isn’t really infinity, you can’t just manually set it and shoot. The best method is switch to live view, zoom in on a star and manually focus it. Seasoned aurora and night photographer then tape the lens so the focus can’t get changed, I forgot the tape so each time I put my camera away during a lull in the activity, or switched lenses,  I would have to re-focus when I pull it back out, lame on my part.

Somebody turn out the lights! Its wasn't the cold that kept us awake, it was the full moon and the aurora!

Somebody turn out the lights! Its wasn’t the cold that kept us awake, it was the full moon and the aurora!

By 2:00AM the aurora had moved south-east and directly above us and away from the mountains. The three of us were frozen stiff, even with the fire going and filled with hot drinks, sitting around 10 hours at -15F, your body finally says “Get moving or crawl into you bag!”. So we crawled into our bags and tried to settle in. I got up to pee around 4:00AM and the aurora was bursting from the sky. It looked like color rain pouring down on me, it was the mighty corona aurora. I thought of putting all my warm gear back on and dragging the cameras out but decided to just enjoy the lights, sometimes, my best experiences are when the camera is put away.

The lights begin to move south east away from the mountains, but gain in intensity.

The lights begin to move south east away from the mountains, but grew in intensity.

I woke to catch the sunrise on the mountains, but the camera gear would have none of that. As soon as I took the lens cap off the lenses, they were coated with a sheet of ice. Oh well, I did laps around camp to stay warm, watching the amazing scene in front of me. Soon Sy and Opie woke to enjoy the scene. With no stove and the fire stone dead, we quickly made haste out of there.

It was great experience. Good friends experiencing a truly dazzling night together, I would happily have cold feet and hands again to share that experience with others. It is something every Alaskan should do, get out of your comfort zone and experience one of the great light shows on Earth.

Telephoto Landscapes

Cool ice and Mount Deborah.

Cool ice and Mount Deborah. Taken at 200mm.

People are always surprised when I tell them that I rarely use a wide-angle lens for my photography. I prefer to work with a 70-200 lens, in fact, over 80% of my images are with that lens.

A wide-angle lens generally needs a close foreground subject that anchors the image or directs the viewer to another object in the distance. This is often referred to as a near-far composition. The foreground is the often main subject, while the distant subject establishes the environment or sets the mood. Sometimes the foreground is just a guide, that leads us to a more dominant background subject.

Beautiful mixed light, Hayes Glacier, eastern Alaska Range.

Beautiful mixed light, Hayes Glacier, eastern Alaska Range. Taken at 400mm.

Using a wide-angle lens effectively is much harder than one thinks. Wide-angle photographs often include more of the scene then what we want. Including too much in our photographs is possibly the most common error that leads to disappointment in our work. I was once given the advice: “Once you composed the perfect image, to move in 20% closer.” I continue to encourage my workshop students to do the same.

1:00am sunset lights the rain, sky and river.

1:00am sunset lights the rain, sky and river. Taken at 70mm.

It takes practice to really isolate “what” we like from a scene. When we realize what is really attracting us to a particular landscape,we can use a telephoto lens to “reach out” and grab the elements in the scene that we had been seduced by.

A telephoto lens compresses a landscape, creating layers of land and light that appear close to each other, even though they could be separated by miles and miles. Light and shadow are major elements in a telephoto landscape, they add depth to a scene that has been smashed into a two-dimensional image. Deep, long shadows and bright, dramatic highlights are the best for telephoto landscapes.

Sy and Chris descend through the upper Kahiltna Icefall, Mount Foraker is in the background, Denali National Park and Preserve

Sy and Chris descend through the upper Kahiltna Icefall, Mount Foraker is in the background, Denali National Park and Preserve. Having people in this images gives a sense of scale and really completes the image.

A telephoto landscape can bring out the graphic, abstract qualities of photography, light and the landscape. That is usually a good thing, but sometimes, its more powerful to have a small object in the frame, like a person or a tree, which adds a sense of scale to an image. So next time leave your wide angle at home and try and photograph some landscapes with just a telephoto, you will amazed by the results.