Dani and Will, July 7, 2017

The best memories are spontaneous moments rather than directed and posed. I do my best to capture the mood in moments like these, to document the sequence of events, and to tell the story of every event I photograph. Congratulations, Dani and Will! July 7, 2017.

Harding Icefield

"I don't wanna come back down from this cloud." Looking out over Harding Icefield from the end of the trail above Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park on July 4, 2017. The icefield consists of 800 square miles of ice that spawns upwards of 30 glaciers. I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend the holiday. Many thanks to my good friend and hiking partner, Jerome Flynn, for the photo. 
 

Sunspot

We've had some unique sunsets recently with the atmospheric haze, creating the giant fireball when the sun is low on the horizon. This was taken two nights ago and if you look closely, you can see the big sunspot AR2665, which is a storm on the surface of the sun. If you are not familiar, this is what causes aurora borealis. According to Spaceweather (http://www.spaceweather.com/), the sunspot currently poses just a 15% chance of major flares. Even if a flare was earth-directed at this point, our skies are still too bright to even see the aurora. Let's hope it comes back around when we start having darker nights again!

4th of July, 2017

Happy (belated) 4th of July! I spent the day hiking up around Exit Glacier to the Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park with a good friend who is visiting from Minnesota. It was a spectacular day, albeit grueling at times (ten miles round trip with a 3,000 foot elevation gain & descent). I carried my biggest telephoto lens and tripod, which drew numerous comments from passersby but seeing a trio of mountain goats in great light against the glacial backdrop made it all worthwhile.

Colin

Dick Griffith

An Alaskan legend just reached another milestone yesterday when Dick Griffith, adventurer extraordinaire, turned 90 years old. I was fortunate enough to be included in the celebration and also document the event with photos.

Born in a one-room farmhouse in southwest Colorado, the family moved to a homestead in rural Wyoming when Dick turned 8 years old, one year after he had contracted scarlet fever. Although he survived, a young companion and friend of his did not. Later, at age 16, Dick had a bout with rheumatic fever that left him with a heart murmur. Due to this medical condition, the US military deemed him physically unfit to serve after high school and it seems that Dick has spent the rest of his life proving them wrong. He was one of the first people to raft the Grand Canyon and also explored parts of Glen Canyon prior the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, which created Lake Powell and flooded much of the area along with the many Native American dwellings and artifacts. In addition to exploring the American Southwest, Dick also made first-ever voyages down canyons in Mexico and trekked through the Himalayas in Nepal. Perhaps his most significant accomplishment was when Dick decided to cross the arctic coast of North America on skis, from northwest Alaska to Eastern Canada, a feat that took him years to accomplish, completing it in segments. This cold weather travel came with its share of obstacles, including confronting hungry polar bears unarmed and at one point near Anaktuvuk Pass in Alaska’s Brooks Range, he literally froze his a$$ off (you can see the photos and read all about it in his biography, Canyons and Ice, written by New York Times bestselling author and fellow Alaskan, Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan).

In addition to being the first person to float through turbulent sections in canyon country, he is also credited by many current explorers as being the pioneer of the modern sport of pack rafting. Is spite of his accomplishments, Dick never sought recognition and scoffs at the idea of being referred to as any sort of legend, though it tough to deny that there are few people with his courage and adventurous spirit. Happy 90th birthday to you, sir. I believe it is safe to say that you have disproven any notion that you were not physically fit to serve in the military. For no matter where in the world my own far-flung adventures may take me, I will never hold a candle to you.

You can learn more about Dick Griffith and order a copy of Canyons and Ice here: https://www.facebook.com/canyonsandice/

Colin

Summer Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice! With 19 hours, 21 minutes, and 18 seconds of daylight in south central Alaska today, the pendulum of light now swings the other direction until December 21, at which time we will have approximately 5 and a half hours of daylight.

This is Glacier Lake, the headwaters of Eagle River. I took this one year ago today on the Crow Pass Trail using the "Big Stopper" 10-stop neutral density filter from LEE Filters to obtain a 60-second exposure.

Solstice Trek

One year ago my good friend Tyler Howie and I set off trekking on the Crow Pass Trail Pass Trail with his dog Freija leading the way. It was pouring rain when we started, which continued for the first 8 miles or so, eventually clearing off for a spectacular midnight sky. We are planning to do the hike again this year with pack rafts and float most of the way back to the Eagle River Nature Center. Traveling in a pack raft with my camera gear is going to be a new experience for me, so I've been spending some time on the river to get used to maneuvering before we depart.

Worth the Wait

I waited nearly 4 hours for this moment today. This cow moose has twin calves. After a bit of browsing this morning, they bedded down for a few hours in some tall grass and brush, mostly out of sight. I'd considered throwing in the towel; I was growing hungry and have a number of tasks to accomplish today but when you've got subjects like these with soft, overcast light, sometimes you have to wait in hopes that patience eventually pays off.

Treetop Dining

Here is something you don't see every day - a large black bear 50 feet up a tree eating cottonwood seeds. Black bears are excellent climbers and have claws designed for this as compared to their grizzly cousins, who are more adapt at digging than climbing. Still, it always amazes me to see an animal that is several hundred pounds appear so at ease in a treetop.

Spring in the Valley

Hello and happy Monday, friends! Seems I’ve been wrapped up in some major spring-cleaning and other demanding projects and haven’t posted in a while. In that time, Eagle River Valley has gone from showing the last traces of winter to an explosion of color and wildlife. I’ve been getting out for brief hikes here & there and to catch the last bit of late evening light, but yesterday I met up with a friend and went for a nice 9-mile trek. I was fortunate enough to capture a rare, white calypso orchid while it was still in bloom, spot a couple of black bears, and witness many signs of the oncoming season. The sun is now setting after 11 pm and the valley is full of life.  I look forward to chasing more light during the long days ahead.

Colin

 

 

Chris Cornell

“Safe outside my gilded cage
With an ounce of pain
I wield a ton of rage
Just like suicide.”

This is a sad say for the music world with the loss of Chris Cornell of Soundgarden in what looks to be an apparent suicide. Often it seems the most talented minds are also the most tormented. He was one of my favorite rockers and vocalists whose music continues to have a big impact on my life.

I saw Soundgarden at the Gorge in Washington in July of 2011 with one of my best friends, Leif Heide. It was a short trip; I flew down from Alaska, met up with Leif in Seattle and drove out to the Gorge for the show, and flew home the next day. The weather a perfect 80˚ and sunny to see one of my favorite bands of all time. I didn’t think I’d be able to get my digital SLR into the show so I packed light, bringing just a small backpack for the 2-day mission. Fortunately, Leif brought his compact Sony “point & shoot,” which I borrowed to capture some images. It is true that the best camera is the one in your hand at the moment that you need it. Even though I didn’t have a “professional” camera, the Sony proved itself worthy and I came away with a few nice images for memory sake. I’ve been to literally hundreds of concerts over the past few decades and this one ranks right up at the top of the list. Thank you, Chris Cornell, for sharing your gift with us. While I did not know you personally, I mourn your death, as I would not be the same person without your music in my life.

May 8 Auroras, 2016

One year ago today the sky lit up with one of the most vibrant aurora displays I've had the pleasure of witnessing. There was a narrow window in the wee hours where the lights were deep green, purple, and blue against the semi-dark Alaskan spring sky. It was also Mother's Day. With the increasing daylight, the viewing season is drawing to a close. Soon the skies will be too bright to see the aurora again until late summer.

Have a great Monday out there and thank you for following along! Be sure to check out the Mother's Day print specials in my store:

Singed and numbered prints: Mother's Love moose print and Mother's Day Aurora

20% off all canvas and metal prints through May 14. Enter the promo code "MOTHERSDAY2017" at checkout. 

Catchlight

Several years ago a seasoned photographer taught me that catchlight in your subject’s eyes can make the difference between a meaningful image and mediocrity. This holds true for portraits as well as wildlife.

Yesterday evening there was just the right amount of atmospheric moisture to create a quality of light so superb that the golden hour had a reddish glow. I’d been following the calls of this great horned owl until I finally located it. To my dismay, it was perched on a branch just out of the direct light. When it turned its head to size me up, the last rays of sunlight illuminated its right eye, creating this dramatic pose.

 

 

In time for Mothers' Day, new images added to my online store...

Well, it seems this pair of swans has left the valley and moved on to their summer nesting grounds. They were here for an entire month this spring, twice as long as the previous two years. I always look forward to their return and the beautiful opportunities they present; this year being no exception.

Just in time for Mothers' Day, I've added some recent photos (both swans and moose) to my online store. These images would look great on metal and they are available on canvas and high-gloss photo paper as well. Feel free to share!

Cheers,

Colin

Link to online store...

Moose, Swans, and Moon

Just because the sun goes down doesn’t mean the light is gone. A few nights back I was photographing the swans at sunset when a moose walked onto the scene. I was hoping that the swans and the moose would line up in the frame but that seemed like I was asking for the moon when, lo and behold, the moon showed up too.

I stuck around until the light was too low to continue shooting, watching them feed together - their faces just inches apart at times, possibly foraging the same aquatic vegetation. It made me think, this interspecies harmony could be a lesson for mankind.

Happy Monday, everybody. Have a great week and be peaceful to one another.

Colin

Eagle Peak Sunsets

We've now passed 13 hours of daylight in south central Alaska. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the season (and the light) changes this time of year. These photos of Eagle Peak at sunset were taken 3 weeks apart. Soon the north face of the mountain (pictured here) will be completely bathed in light as the sun sets on the northern horizon. For comparison, this side of the mountain doesn't get any direct sun during the late fall and winter months. Have a great weekend everybody, get out and chase the light!

Colin