The folks who were willing to wade through the maze of testing and other covid requirements were sure awarded with an absolutely amazing trip! Three sows appeared with spring cubs, including our favorite Crimp who has triplets this year! We saw lots of nursing, cubs playing, clam digging, even a wolf and fox, it was incredible. Plus, were basically the only ones in the fields the whole time. Looks like 2020 will be a year to remember in Alaska.
This photo is from June of 2014, seems like a lifetime ago!
I have received some really nice emails and calls checking on us to make sure all is well since I haven’t posted anything in awhile. In short, yes, fortunately all is well, but it has been a challenging few months and a fire threatening our Tucson Desert Photo Retreat seemed like the final blow. Thankfully, the Tortolita fire has been contained, and the threat mostly eliminated thanks very much to the many firefighters who battled that blaze in challenging conditions. Unfortunately, a second fire continues to burn and threaten other parts of Tucson, and my heart goes out to those folks.
Really beginning in March with our Arizona business and continuing until now, we have been busy with cancellations, re-bookings and working through many other challenges. It was hard to look out from the home office last week at a humpback whale and beautiful weather knowing I should have been leading my Kenai Fjords trip right then.
However, much has changed in the last couple of weeks. With Alaska’s requirement for a Covid test before flying, and offering a second test at the airport upon arrival, coupled with numerous other precautions including private rooms for everyone, and meals delivered to rooms, we are now ready to offer our first bear trip of the season with a small group. In fact, we will be the only group at the lodge, and likely the only people in the entire area! I hope I’m wrong, but I believe testing coupled with other precautions is how trips in Alaska will be lead this summer and next, so we might as well figure out how to do them safely.
I will say, I’m excited to get back to the bears, to a place where life revolves around nature, wildlife and tides.
I don’t typically share mistakes, but this is an interesting one. This was from later in the evening from my single bat image.
The way I do bat photography is with a Cognisys Sabre. I set the aperture and ISO, then put the camera in bulb mode and let the Sabre manage the shutter. I can tell the Sabre to take continues exposures for a set length of time. At the beginning of the night when there is some ambient light, I do back to back to back 3 or 4 second exposures. Later in the evening I switch to 30 second exposures. So the Sabre captures photo after photo until it senses a bat. Then it fires my flashes and closes the shutter. That way I don’t capture multiple images in the same frame.
So what happened here? Before going to bed, I always check on the setup, change out camera batteries etc. Well, I must have accidentally bumped off of bulb mode to 60 second manual exposure. In this mode, the Sabre keeps firing the flashes, but has no way of closing the shutter. So this is 4 or 5 separate flash firings which is why the rocks in the background are exposed, and 5 different bats! The bat activity really comes in flurries as you can see here.
I’m going to make some small changes to the setup next winter and looking forward to having everything fine-tuned and working great – lots of possibilities here! I have noticed that skunks and other animals will sometimes climb up on this giant water table at night which could provide some cool opportunities for back lighting from below and doing other creative things with the flashes.
We have been going back through our entire photo library as part of the big project – it has been a fun trip down memory lane! I thought I would share some of these images from the past. Hard to believe this was 13 years ago!
Well being in quarantine has given me some extra time do go back through some past images looking for ones I may have missed, or that need further processing now that we have better tools for capturing shadows and highlights. This was from an evening spent in the mountains above the Mendenhall Glacier with a buddy back in 2014 – wow times flies! Right up there with one of the more memorable nights of photography I have ever had! Tongass National Forest, near Juneau, Alaska.
Saw the first humpback whale of the season from the home office this morning. Since I wasn’t able to capture a photo, I thought I would share one from last summer – whales and bears don’t seem to care about pandemics! This group of humpbacks are cooperatively feeding, a behavior that is amazing to see!
So excited, honored and proud to have the cover of two of the three large calendars produced by Greatland Graphics. Greatland Graphics has been producing some of the nicest Alaska calendars for years, but what makes it extra special is it is now owned by good friend and outstanding photographer Patrick Endres.
Like so many of my fellow photographers this is a very challenging time, even for the calendar business. You see, most of these sell in gift shops in the summer to cruise ship passengers, and with many cruise ships being locked down these days, most of these calendars will go unsold. However, if you click on the link, you can order these wonderful calendars directly from Greatland Graphics. You will end up with a high quality product, and help an Alaskan business at the same time!
This photo was from a very memorable morning on one of my Alaska bear photo tours a few years ago. We were the only ones up this morning, and spotted this sow with two spring cubs very near the lodge – in fact, we were able to walk over to them from the lodge. These particular cubs were prone to climbing onto their mom’s back, a really cute behavior you don’t always see. Couple that, with perfect morning light, and we had a morning I’ll never forget. Unfortunately, we couldn’t contain our excitement once we returned to the lodge, so that was the last morning that week that we were the only ones up!
Last night – another night, another cool moon rise! It is early May and shocking to see how little snow is on these mountains right now, they should be buried in snow this time of year down to the water.