Archive for Photography

The Arctic

Posted in Arctic, bears, guiding, polarbears with tags , , , on November 19, 2013 by polarguide

I have been browsing through my images and today I came upon several files of my Arctic voyages in the summer of 2011.

I spent the month of July 2011 cruising around Svalbard.  Svalbard  is an archipelago above 70 degrees north latitude. It is a territory or Norway and it is quite remote. It was a spectacular month of photographing polar bears, walrus, and  several varieties of arctic birds. All in a dramatic and beautiful landscape.

I flew back to Alaska and in early August 2011 I was back on board the ship, this time in northern canada cruising through the northwest passage.

Here are a few images of those voyages.  I am missing some of my files of the northwest passage voyage. I have some decent shots of a few of the inuit villages we visited. I will post those when I come across them.

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My favorite

My favorite

Black and White

Posted in photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 8, 2013 by polarguide

I posted a Black and white photograph yesterday and I really like the way it looked.   I haven’t shot anything in black and white since the last time I used film.  Digital black and white is still strange to me.

I decided today to go through a few photographs and use lightroom to create a black and white effect.

I chose another photo of the sub-way in Washington D.C.  I like this one a lot, I think it works well in black and white.

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I chose these two Juneau, Alaska landscapes.  The first, I think needs more contras, maybe. I like the moodieness of the second, although I think I could improve on the composition.

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I chose these shots of Gentoo penguins and whale Vertebrae because in color they were too dull and lacked contrast.  I thought black and white might improve them.  Im not sure how I feel about these.

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This next shot I chose for the dark lines contrasted with the snow and the black and white penguins. I think it still lacks contrast.

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I chose this shot of Antarctic ice bergs because I like the dramatic way the dark sky contrasts the ice. Black and white brings out the texture in the ice. I’m not crazy about the composition of this shot but I think black and white really works well with it.

bw6I need to play with black and white more and come up with a good technique that suites me. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

To fly or not to fly

Posted in alaska, antarctica, bears, guiding, icebergs, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , on November 1, 2013 by polarguide

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I could be on a plane right now.   I could be on a plane flying south.  South to South America, to Uruguay and Argentina and then further south to Antarctica.  But I chose to stay in Alaska for the winter.

Alaska for the winter or Antarctica for the summer.  Or both, simultaneously. I feel indecisive about my decision. I feel like a paradox.

Work is slow, money is tickling in and flowing steadily out.  Heavy grey clouds,  good food and the company of friends make me feel at the same time comforted and discontent.  I have too much time.  My mind is too idle. The days are growing shorter. Lying on the couch, lying in bed, from the tin roof  the slow rain applauds my apathy.

Its the money.  And the work.  The work and the money, That’s what I fret about most.  Work keeps my mind busy, I would work for free if I had money.   I don’t give two shits about money, never have.  I just need to pay the rent and for food, and my teeth.  I broke two last week!

Winter is coming.

Summer is sweet in Alaska, with all its sun and whales and endless work.

Winter is slow and dark, its a vacation from summer.

I like fall best.

The fall wind and rain justify laziness.  Hunting and fishing and friends  I haven’t seen since spring because we were working all summer. Then a blanket of quiet dark lays across the top of the world as winter snuggles in for the season.

Still, It would have been nice to hop on that plane heading south to south america. By now, I would be in Montevideo eating octopus in the mercado del puerto.  A few days more I would be in Ushuaia stuffing my face with asado.

By this time next week I would be a sailor again, rolling over waves and fighting through storms on the drake passage heading to the  worlds most remote continent. I spent a few hours today mulling over my photographs of Alaska and Antarctica, trying to find a common feeling. Trying to somehow make sense of these two polar opposite portions of my life. Trying to find an emotional bridge or a rational connection.  It sounds strange but I couldn’t.  It’s as if I am two different people living one life or vice versa.

I Put together a few of the photographs I took this summer at home in Alaska, and a few from last season in Antarctica.  I chose pictures that were characteristic of each place, from my perspective.

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Apathy or ardor

Posted in alaska, photography, travel, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2013 by polarguide

Its that time of the year again, when after returning home from months of travel, work and adventure I have trouble motivating to do anything.  This in between time generally involves lounging on the couch drinking too much coffee, talking to my self or speaking out loud to people who aren’t present. I pace. I suffer with intermittent episodes of insomnia.  It seems the more free time I have the less organized my mind becomes and finding one thing to focus on is hopeless.

Its hard to feel inspired to photograph when I have hundreds of files full of thousands of pictures from Antarctica that I still have not organized. I have snapped only 150 images this past month. I feel photographically congested.

So this year I decided to take a new approach.  I quit the coffee.  Coffee scatters my pattern of thinking. It causes my thoughts to reel down uncharted paths that lead my mind no-where.

Also, I started a strict vegetarian diet. No eggs, cheese or dairy of any kind. Ninety five percent of my diet is fruit and  hearty colorful (mostly organic) vegetables and lots of beans. Once a week I have a meal of fresh salmon or halibut caught by local Alaskan fisherman  or deer meat that I shot and butchered myself. I also joined the local gym and I try to work out everyday.

During this phase of my year I usually hole up in my apartment for weeks at a time, rarely answering the phone and experiencing mild anxiety about spending time with friends while simultaneously feeling sorry for my self, wondering why no one ever calls me.  Lately I have been trying to socialize more. My new strategy has been to actually answer the phone and when someone invites me on a hike or to a dinner party instead of mumbling an incoherent  excuse, I bite my lip and say yes.  So far the results have been quite successful and I am remembering that I actually do have friends.

This past week I said yes twice. The first was to an invitation to go on an overnight sailing trip to Saint James Bay with three other friends.  We had a great trip with some real life adventure when we nearly flipped the thirty five foot steel hulled sail boat completely upside down. Luckily, no one was injured.  The second yes was an invitation to a simple walk on the beach on a sunny day with three lovely ladies. Here are few snap shots from both events.

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Kayaking in St. james Bay

Kayaking in St. james Bay

St. james Bay

St. james Bay

Dall's porpoise exhaling

Dall’s porpoise exhaling

Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle

Rowdy Stellar sea lions

Rowdy Stellar sea lions

It seems silly to lament these things, these journeys into the heart of apathy are a necessary rest period.   Soon it will all change. Three more weeks and my sea kayak guiding season begins, then I will be on the move for another three months and life will be a parade of new people, wilderness adventure and wildlife photography.

Still Reflecting

Posted in antarctica, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 29, 2013 by polarguide

I am in Seattle today.  I will be hanging around here for a couple of weeks waiting for the sub-let agreement on my apartment to expire. I have a few friends in Seattle and I plan  on spending some time visiting and eating at every Korean restaurant I can find.  I also enrolled in a U.S. Coast Guard captains course.  A two-week course to obtain a license to captain small vessels in Alaska.

Bobby in Seattle with her pet chicken, Velveeta

Bobby in Seattle with her pet chicken, Velveeta

On the last two voyages of the Antarctic season the weather was so spectacular it was possible to take incredible reflection photographs. I have been thinking of ways to improve the balance and symmetry in my photographic compositions.  Often while I am trying to photograph I am also working: driving a boat or paddling a kayak.  It seems I am always  photographing on the run and often shooting moving subjects, wildlife just doesn’t sit still. Rarely do I have time to consider angles, lines and symmetry.

prions over the Drake Passage

prions over the Drake Passage

I have posted a few pictures of prions reflected over the Drake Passage. I keep posting them because seeing a prion over the Drake passage is a rare event for most people. Having a Drake Passage crossing that is calm enough to produce mirror image reflections almost never happens. When it does the reflection of sky on the water surface produces a surreal effect. the photos seem to be of birds flying with the sky as a back drop, but the reflection makes us second guess what we are seeing.

When the water is calm prions like to drag the tip if their wing along the surface of the water.  Shooting a back-lit bird in evening light produces amazing effects.

Prion wing dragging with back lighting

Prion wing dragging with back lighting

prion wing dragging with back lighting

prion wing dragging with back lighting

Sunny calm days in Antarctica produce amazing opportunities for reflections and reflections are one of the easiest ways to incorporate symmetry into wildlife/nature photography. It’s almost cheating, but given the conditions I am shooting under: Driving a zodiac, shooting from the deck of a moving ship or the fact that I never use a tripod, make it challenging to take interesting photos with great composition and symmetry.  here are a few more of my favorites.

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Antarctica and then some

Posted in antarctica, Elephant seals, Falkland Islands, Fur seals, guiding, Leopard seal, penguins, photography, South Georgia Island, tourism, travel, Uncategorized, whales, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2012 by polarguide

Our ship, Russian owned and operated Ice class research vessel the Akademik Ioffee

For History buffs, photographers, adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts Antarctica is the ultimate vacation destination. This will be my third season working in Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions. One Ocean offers several Antarctic voyages ranging in length from ten to eighteen days.  The crown jewel of wildlife viewing polar expeditions is the eighteen day Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica adventure.

The Falklands float 250 nautical miles west of Argentina, it takes two full days at sea  to reach the Islands.  The archipelago is a self-governing off shore territory of the United Kingdom.  There are more than 200 Islands  with a population of  3,100 people, the vast majority being of British decent.  Argentina has always claimed the Falklands to be an Argentinian territory and in 1982 the Argentinian military invaded the islands and a two month-long war ensued resulting in the defeat and surrender of all Argentinian troops.  To this day Barbed wire fences barricade beaches and pastures laden with land mines.

The Islands are a windswept landscape of stony hills and sea cliffs  punctuated  with  emerald pompoms of  tussock grass. For three days we make landings at significant wildlife viewing areas. We visit nesting sites of the Black browed albatross, Rockhopper, Magellanic and Gentoo penguins.  Fur seals, Sea lions  and elephant seals rest and raise their young on wavy beaches.  We complete our time in the Falklands with a visit to the city of Stanley, the capital of the islands, Population 1,500.  From there we begin our two-day journey to South Georgia Island.

Windy hillside of Carcass Island, Falkland Islands.

Nesting colony of Black browed albatross

Nesting pair of Black browed albatross

Magellanic Penguin

Rockhopper penguin

Captain james cook was the first person to step ashore on South Georgia Island in 1775.  The first Sealing campaign began in 1788 and by 1828 1.2 million Fur seals were slaughtered for their pelts, driving the species to the edge of extinction.  Whalers arrived in the late 1890’s and by 1930 40,000 whales had been killed. By 1965 the whale populations had declined so severely the industry was no longer economical and the whaling stations were abandoned.   During our three days on South Georgia Island we visit the remains of these whaling stations.  The bones of long abandoned building and the rusty corpses of ships that once participated in the slaughter  now serve as shelter for the Fur seals and penguins they once exploited.

Abandoned ship near whaling station

Fur seal pups take shelter under propellers from abandoned whaling ships

South Georgia Island  is one of the most intense wildlife experience on the planet.  Its stormy shores teem with life and the  number of animals on one beach can be overwhelming.  We visit King penguin colonies where the penguins number in the hundreds of thousands.  They waddle down beaches along side fur seals.  The Elephant seals stack themselves side by side so numerous you could walk their backs for the entire length of the beach, although I wouldn’t recommend it, these behemoths weigh in at eight tons.

Typical South Georgia beach

250,000 king penguins

Don’t get too close to these guys

Before landing at south Georgia we issue bright red rain-gear and green rubber boots to every passenger. This wardrobe serves two functions: It keeps the penguin poo off the passengers clothes and  helps the staff differentiate people from penguins. We lecture every passenger about how to safely conduct themselves around so much wildlife.  We remind people that Elephant seals are wild animals,and although they have a placid demeanor they can be accidentally dangerous.  “You can avoid being crushed to death” I tell people, “by not napping on the beach.”  I also advise that if while photographing a fur seal it rises up on its flippers and runs at you open-mouthed as if it might bite you, it might.  And last but not least, please don’t stand on the penguins.

Pushing the limits

Passengers give their full attention to this lecture.  They nod in agreement as if it were all common sense, but when the first zodiac surfs to a landing grown men and women revert to children. I call it the “Willy Wonka effect”. Remember that scene in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory when Willy swings open the doors to his world of candy ?  All the children run wild stuffing their faces with exotic sweets and wreak havoc on willy’s wonderland of confection. Then the fat kid falls into the chocolate river.  landing on South Georgia Island  is a-lot like that.

A zodiac slides up the beach, red pants swing over pontoons, green boots trudge up the gravel slope and penguins scatter.  They knock into each other like concerned and confused umpa-lumpas. I stand back and watch the comedy unfold: People can’t control themselves, I watch them chase penguins with their point and shoots cameras. To my left I see someone topple over a penguin while walking backwards trying to take a photograph. A little old lady runs past me with an angry fur seal hot on her heels while to my right a man inches too close to a mountain of Elephant seals, daring one to crush him. And then the fat kid falls into the chocolate river, except the river isn’t chocolate its a hot puddle of penguin shit mixed with Elephant seal dung.

After snapping several thousand photographs everyone relaxes. The penguins catch their breath and with the guidance of experienced staff people learn that if they just stand still the wildlife becomes curious.  Slowly, animals assemble to gawk at the strange creatures with red legs and awkward green feet.  Penguins side up to inspect the new comers in a highbrow manner, as if comparing wardrobes. At the end of every excursion passengers return to the ship in a state of joy. cocktail hour and dinner are all a buzz with tales of the day.  Everyone has an exciting story to share of their intimate wildlife experience.

Close encounters with Fur seal pups

Communing with king penguins

Our last stop at south Georgia is at Grytviken whaling station to visit the grave of Antarctica’s most famous explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.  We make a procession to his grave and toast the boss with a slug of whiskey then spend the afternoon walking among the relics of the whaling station.

Grytviken whaling station

Shackleton’s Grave

As we sail south I watch from  the aft deck as the island fades into the northern horizon.  Here I become washed by a wave of nostalgia.  Our ship surfs the wake of  histories great heroes. We are following a course set by men such as: Vasco DA Gamma, Ferdinand Magellan, Francis Drake, James cook and Thaddeus Von Bellinghausen. Our destination, a continent so secluded its existence remained a myth until it was first sighted in 1820. Antarctica.

The ice in Antarctica is immense and looms above everything like a great glinting mountain.   Black cliffs reach to the sun as if trying to escape the sinking weight of the blue blanket if ice .  The entire continent is entombed in a world of winter.

Enormous iceberg dwarfs a zodiac

The continent is frozen under seven thousand feet of glacial ice, the downward force drives its plastic mass seaward until its precipice shatters into the ocean creating icebergs the size of small countries.  The bergs glow a surprising shade of blue that seems to radiate from deep inside, as if an icy neon light burned at its core. The temperature of the thick ocean drifts around 32 degrees. There are no trees, the vegetation is limited to lichen and moss.  It is a stark world of contrast that shines like a jewel.

Breaking through sea ice below the Antarctic circle

Regardless of the harsh, barren environment Antarctica flourishes with life.  The extended summer sunlight and constant upwelling current create a marine soup that supports a complex and bountiful ecosystem.  Thousands of Penguins nest on rocky snow-covered hill sides.  Leopard seals, crab eater seals and Wedell seals nap on ice floes while orca whales hunt through a maze of icebergs.  humpback whales graze on krill in the frigid inky water.  Being there  feels like  you have traveled through time to a place before people.  A place where the earths forces conduct a symphony life.

Lonely penguin returning to the nest

Close encounter with a Humpback whale

Orca whales dwarfed by Antarctic landscape

My first voyage departs November 8th.

Weekend harvest adventure part 2

Posted in alaska, bears, deer hunting, photography, travel, Uncategorized, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2012 by polarguide

Finger on the trigger, glaring through the scope I thought to myself ” I know this bear.”   This was the same bear I photographed the previous week.  I recognized his coffee colored legs and shimmering golden shoulders.  He had a mischievous look in his eye. He struck me then as a young bear, maybe three years old, recently abandoned by his mother trying to find his place int he world.

This guy

The tone of My voice dropped, low and threatening, “Hey bear.”  He planted his front paws, lowered his head and gazed up at me from under his eyebrows.  Then he turned and strode away, peering over his shoulder as if concerned I might be following.  I lowered my firearm  and turned to find my three amigos standing behind me.  The bear apparently decided four were too many to take and went about his business of digging roots and catching fish.

One hour later we were back on the Taurus. Exhilarated and Giddy from the cold we ripped off our wet clothes.  Someone opened a bottle of whiskey and passed it around. We each took a slug, then a second.  We laughed.  We laughed about our wet clothing. We laughed about Zach falling in the river and the bear that stole the fish. We laughed that our hands were so cold we couldn’t button our pants.  The bottle made another round.  ” What was that bear thinking?”  Zach asked.  “Aah, he was just a young bear trying to claim some territory,”  I answered.   “I am surprised you raised your gun at him,”  Shellie added.  ” Well,”  I said  “I had no intention of shooting him, I just wanted to be prepared in case he made a run at me.”

We chugged out of Mud Bay, back into Icy strait.  The sky sagged with heavy grey clouds.  The wind whipped white caps across the surface of the water.  We headed west along the north shore of Chichagof Island toward  Idaho Inlet.

Shaw Island is a small islet that floats off the western shore of Idaho Inlet.   “Wanna cruise by Shaw and scan the beach for deer?” Zach suggested.  “Shaw is pretty small,” I replied. “Not sure why a deer would be way out there, but worth a shot I guess.”  Zach swung the boat  south to scan the northern shore of Shaw Island.  From the aft deck I strained to see through my rifle scope as the boat bounced across the chop. We approached within one hundred yards when, surprisingly, I spotted a good size deer standing at the waters edge.  It’s honey colored coat contrasted with the dark  beach boulders.

The bow of the the Taurus crunched to a stop on the rocky beach and the deer slunk into the forest.  I was over the bow, rifle loaded and ducking under alder bows moments later.  I crept thirty feet into the dark understory then stood still and waited.  The deer appeared from behind a log twenty feet to my right and froze in alarm.  I jerked the rifle into place but  I forgot,while I was scanning the beach from the boat I had my scope zoomed in at maximum power, at this distance all I could see was a blur of brown .   I lowered my gun to decrease the zoom. The deer took three steps forward and evaporated into the forest.

I crouched, trying to see which way the deer had gone.  I peered through a riot of roots, shrubs and downed trees.  I ducked under some dead fall and knelt exactly where the deer had stood.  I adjusted the focus of my eyes, trying to see between the forest. Looking for a flick of a tail or twitch of an ear, a splash of brown in symphony of color.  He was gone.

He couldn’t be far, only seconds had passed. I was in awe of his ability to completely disappear so effortlessly. Creeping over down logs and wading through tangles of blueberry bushes I came to a rise in the landscape and followed a well used game trail up a  steep ridge line. I arrived at the top out of breath and discouraged.  No way a bumbling bi-ped like me  could track such a silent and elusive creature through this jungle. I leaned against a tree drawing  deep, quiet breaths and listened, hoping the deer was still close by.

He bounced out of thin air and landed on an open patch of moss thirty yards away.  Standing broad side with all four hooves planted firmly on the ground, head turned looking directly at me, he froze in perfect position. A beam of pale sunlight broke through the trees and landed squarely on his statuesque silhouette. I blinked with disbelief.

I rolled my left hand over the stock of the rifle and snapped the safety off.  My heart quickened. I could feel blood bounding in my neck, my breath short and quick.  I placed the cross hairs on his chest just behind his left leg. My aim bounced with each beat of my heart. I took a deep breath and with a slow exhale squeezed the trigger.  The roar of my rifle echoed through the trees, out past the cobble stone beach and died somewhere over the foggy ocean.

I rested the firearm against a tree and gulped down a few more deep breaths.  I let my nerves settle, waited for my heart to slow then cautiously walked to the deer. I ran my right hand over its coarse golden coat and quietly thanked it.  I Grabbed up the fur on the scruff of its neck a began the slow drag through the dense forest. I gutted him on the beach and skinned the carcass on the Taurus as we continued west through South Inian Pass and into Cross Sound.

We spent that night on the Shoreline scow.  The Shoreline scow is a floating fish barge that buys salmon around the clock from fisherman working the Cross Sound fishery.  The scow floats in Lisianski Inlet just five miles from the the gulf of Alaska and the open pacific ocean.  It is operated by an all female crew affectionately know as the scow girls.  My girlfriend Liz works on the the scow from time to time.  We decided to pay her a visit, cook the scow girls a fresh meal of venison and get an early start fishing in the morning.

By mid-Sunday morning we  had twelve nice salmon, we completed our weekend adventure with a long run back to Gustavus.  We made it back to town sometime around two p.m.  The rest of the day was spent getting our gear moved off the boat,  properly butchering the deer, cleaning the fish and preparing them for the freezer.  Monday morning Adam and I helped Zach get the final rafters installed on his cabin and I flew back to Juneau to attend a photography class at the University.

In two days time and in the company of good friends, through rain storms, near bear attacks and rough seas we managed to harvest a good amount of fish and venison to add to our winter stockpile.

Shellie with a nice Coho

Shellie and Coho

Zach’s Cabin