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

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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.

The Back Up Plan: Ski tour through the Delta Mountains

Brad enjoys the last light on the beautiful north face of peak 7680.

Brad enjoys the last light on the beautiful north face of peak 7680.

“No flights today.” she said on the phone. This was our second day of waiting and our allocated time for adventure was slowly vanishing. We either had to give up on the trip or find an alternative. The central Alaska Range was choked with dense clouds and was getting pounded by high winds, there wasn’t much of a chance we would ever get to fly into the Eldridge Glacier, so if we wanted to salvage this trip, we needed to travel in on our own.

I suggested one of my favorite places, the Delta Mountains. I had heard there was plenty snow and the area would  be less crowded now that the infamous Arctic Man was over. Neither Brad or Neil had ever been to the Delta Mountains, so it was decided, ski tour through the Deltas.

The night before leaving Neil spoke with some USGS employees that had just returned from the Gulkana Glacier Research Hut and said there was a perfect trail busted and plenty of fresh snow. They also mentioned that the hut was unoccupied and that we were welcome to stay there a night or two.

Monday we made the long, five-hour drive to the area known as the Hoodoos, near the toe of the Gulkana Glacier. We drove up the plowed road that led to parking and camping area for the Arctic Man event.

Light on the Gabriel Icefall

Light on the lower Gabriel Icefall

Under warm skies we loaded sleds and made quick up work up the river and then onto the glacier. I had been (still am) suffering through a nasty groin-hip problem and after about four hours of dragging sleds up the glacier, my leg was ready to call it quits. Neil was blazing a trail and it took work for Brad and I to catch him. After some discussion we decided to put up camp above the lower Gabriel Icefall. By the end of dinner, the weather had begun to change, a stiff wind picked up and grey clouds drifted in.

The next morning we woke to low, swirling clouds. We knew that the USGS cabin was about two miles ahead of us. It sat precariously perched on the bottom of a rocky ridge. We could occasionally see the ridge, but it would constantly disappear. The smart thing to do in those conditions, would be to hang tight and wait for an improvement in the weather. Purposely heading out onto the glacier, in whiteout conditions, would be an obvious lapse in judgment and yet, before I knew it, that was what we were doing.

Guess you could say we had cabin fever. The siren song of an old, dilapidated structure was too hard to resist, so we pushed into the white void. The conditions gradually got worse. And like and man coming out of a coma I thought to myself, “What the hell are we doing?” I pulled out my compass and tried to get a bearing off the ridge that the cabin was on, but it was too late, it had vanished.

Forced bivy. Brad and Neil enjoying our trench in the glacier.

Forced bivy. Brad and Neil enjoying our trench in the glacier.

Being in a whiteout is a strange feeling, especially for the lead person. You have no reference, no idea if you’re on the edge of a cliff or on flat ground. Your mind begins to play tricks and you start to see things: rocks, bumps, hills, things that aren’t there. But your mind is so desperate to find something it recognizes, that it ultimately creates things.To your partners behind you, you look confused as you wanderer aimlessly. They have you and the rope as a reference, so they will constantly yell, “why are you going that way?” . This can all lead to tension amongst the team.

As soon as tensions began to rise, we got smart and stopped and dug into the glacier to get out of the wind and blowing snow. We decided to sit and see if things improved. If they didn’t in an hour or two, we would set up camp.

Just when we started to get chilled and began to contemplate setting camp, the hut magically appeared. It was less than a quarter mile away, right above us. We quickly packed and made the slog up the steep slopes to the tiny USGS Hut.

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Neil approaches the Gulkana Glacier Research Hut after a long day of ski touring.

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A rare, perfect sun dog and the Gulkana Glacier Research Hut.

The USGS Gulkana Glacier Research Hut is used by both the USGS and the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a emergency shelter for scientist and students. It has room to sleep two, three if someone sleeps on the ground, which Brad graciously volunteered to do.

Within a few hours the skies would clear and we would have four gloriously clear days in the mountains. We did have some high winds on the upper slopes, but it was hot when sheltered from them. We spent two days exploring the endless ridges and icefalls that are scattered throughout the area. The skiing was perfect, six inches of thick powder on top of a stable, deep base.

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The amazing hanging glacier on the north face of peak 7680 dominates the view from the hut.

I took one day off to rest my aching leg while Neil and Brad went bagging peaks. They had a fun time on steeps slopes and chunky, thigh burning powder. I never like to spend too long in one place so we finally said goodbye to our comfy little abode and skied down glacier. We explored the upper Gabriel Icefall and had a an amazing ski down, the hero snow made me feel like I was a good skier. We put up our final camp at the base of the icefall. The final day was a brilliant ski on perfect snow, making turns with ours sleds, something that is rarely successful!

The delicate beauty of ice and shadow, Moore Icefall, Delta Mountains

The delicate beauty of ice and shadow, Moore Icefall, Delta Mountains

Firn crevasses, Moore Icefall, Icefall Peak in the background.

Firn crevasses, Moore Icefall, Icefall Peak in the background.

Strastrugi Formations and peak 8110

Strastrugi Formations and Snow White in the background.

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Neil contemplates his options.

I was bummed not to get to the Eldridge Glacier, one of the only large Alaska Range glaciers I haven’t visited. But is was a successful trip; great skiing and good friends in some of my favorite mountains in Alaska!

High winds stayed with us most of the trip.

High winds stayed with us most of the trip.

Neill skiing below the Gabriel Icefall.

Neil skiing below the Gabriel Icefall.

Sun sets behind Mount Shand.

Sun sets behind Mount Shand.

Radio and Magazines!

Seven page portfolio in the June 2015 issue of Alaska magazine.

Seven page portfolio in the June 2015 issue of Alaska magazine.

I promise I will get trip reports from my last two expeditions up soon. I have two things to keep you entertained until then.

I was a recent guest on the popular Alaska Public Media show Outdoor Explorer. This was my second time as a guest on the show. This time I was talking with Charles, the host, about wilderness photography. Dan Bailey was the guest on the first half of the show, I am the guest on the second. You can listen to it here:

http://www.alaskapublic.org/2015/05/22/outdoor-photography/

Alaska Magazine has published a seven page portfolio from the Alaska Range Project in their latest issue (June 2015). I have been a contributing photographer to Alaska Magazine for over ten years. My work has appeared in 15 different issues including three featured portfolios. Thanks again Alaska Magazine for all the years of support!

 

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.

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.

Alaska Range Project: 2014 Review

2014 was a wild year, full of drama and spectacular wilderness. It started off strong, with two amazing trips and then slowly deteriorated, with family emergencies, wicked weather and cancelled trips. However, I made some strong images for the book and feel confident that this will be an exciting publication and a real tribute to the mighty Alaska Range.

I want to give a big thanks to everyone who helped spread the word in 2014. Images from the project were printed in United States, Japan, Germany, France and Italy.

The biggest exposure came from online venues including: The Adventure Journal, Mother Nature Network, Project Pressure, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, National Geographic Adventure Blog and Nature Photographers Network.

Photographs from the project were used by numerous climbers from all over the world. With the help from my images, some of them made hard, first ascents. I hope to add a climber support section to the blog this year.

My expedition partners are key to the project’s success, so a big thanks to: Sy, Opie, Phil, Brian, Julie, my Dad and my wife Pam and son Walker. A special thanks to all the pilots who flew me into the wilderness this year including: Jim Cummings, Jim Green and OE.

Thanks to all the 2014 project sponsors and supporters including: The American Alpine Club, The Mountaineering Club of Alaska, Patagonia, Black Diamond, Naneu, Alaska Alpine Adventures and The Alaska Center for the Environment.

And final shout to Kate and the crew at The Mountaineers Books for all their support and for making this project a reality.

Okay, now some photographs!

 

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.

 

Chasing the Fall Colors in the Alaska Range

Skull and fall colors, north side, Hayes Range.

Skull and fall colors, last year’s trip to the north side of the Hayes Range.

The fall season is short in the Alaska Range. The shoulder between Summer and Winter only last a few weeks at best. I have often had snow cover the fall colors right at their prime.

This is my last chance to capture the brief, fall display for the book (all photographs need to be to the publisher by August of next year). The last two years I have flown in to a remote section of the Alaska Range, with limited success. It is very difficult to predict when and where the colors will be at their prime. Everyone has their theories on why the colors change when they do, but I have yet to find any reasonable way to predict when and where, all one can do is search.

So this year I will be approaching it differently. Generally, the alpine colors on the north side of the Range change first, followed by the south side tundra, then the lower shrubs and trees on the north…etc. I have found the alpine tundra turning red as early as the last week of August and is late as the second week of September!

Rumor has it that the alpine tundra on the north side of the Alaska Range is already beginning to turn. The goal is to drive until we find the colors and hike in, spend a few days and then move on to the next display. I am not a fan of roadside photography, but it may be the only way to find those elusive colors when they are at their best.

Fall colors were just beginning to hit their prime.

The holy grail of Alaska fall colors is when you find the alpine tundra and the lower shrubs and bushes changing at the same time. This was the last day of last year’s trip. The tundra had just turned and the lower shrubs were almost there, I just missed it!