Category Archives: Forests

Alpenglow on Mt. Wrangell, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Winter landscape of sunset over Mt. Wrangell and the Copper River Basin. Mount Wrangell, Mount Zanetti and snow covered boreal forest of the Copper River Basin, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Winter landscape of sunset over Mt. Wrangell and the Copper River Basin. Mount Wrangell, Mount Zanetti and snow covered boreal forest of the Copper River Basin, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click the image to view larger version.

Hey Folks,

“We had a remarkable sunset one day last November .. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, with all the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and, perchance, as it has never set before, …. so pure and bright a light,  …. so softly and serenely bright, I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or murmur to it.” – Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”.

For those of you perhaps unfamiliar with this essay, my advice is to read it carefully; those who’ve read it previously will do well to re-read the piece; it’s a classic. Continue reading

Blurred Aspen boles

Camera panning blurs the boles of Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Camera panning blurs the boles of Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a follow up to my most recent post of this small aspen stand in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Aspens aren’t doing so well in the warming climate we’re seeing in the world today. It’s more than a shame, they’re such a magnificent tree.  I remember the first time I ever camped beneath the canopy of a stand of aspen, not far off the Resurrection Pass Trail in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. A quick dinner of pasta and tuna, some cocoa and a Milky Way for dessert, and my sleeping bag called my name; just as I settled in to that beautiful state of semi-consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, those moments when all the world is your friend, a slight breeze rustled through the forest, the indescribable sound instantly hooking my complete attention. Continue reading

Quaking Aspen bole blurs

Careful panning of the camera, during a long exposure, blurs the boles of these aspen, Wrangell - St. Elias national Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

I was looking through some older images tonight, and found this one from last fall. This is from a little stand of Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) that I’ve photographed a few times. I’d actually been looking for some wildlife to photograph, but was thwarted yet again in my quest, so, as the light faded, I headed for this stand of aspen. I had photographed them a number of times, but never really played with the camera panning technique here before. This was a situation where digital photography was a real help; I could take an image, review the frame on the LCD on the back of the camera, and see what I liked, or disliked, and figure out what I needed to do in order to create the kind of image I was looking for.

Now, generally I don’t post the ‘photo techs’ on images, because I think to do is largely useless information. Continue reading

Grizzly bear and fall color

A grizzly bear stands poised beside Brooks River, vibrant fall colors in the background, as he fishes for Sockeye Salmon. Katmai National park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

As I said in a recent post, on my recent trip to Katmai National Park and Preserve I really hoped to make some images that featured not only the great grizzly bears, but also the awesome fall colors of the boreal forest . The Black Cottonwoods of the area provide the perfect background for photographing grizzly bears, but rarely do photographers seem to combine the 2. Most folks come up to Alaska and shoot the bears in the summer, and I think they’re missing out. The classic shot of a grizzly bear fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls is nice, and only generally possible mid-summer, of course, but there are a lot of other opportunities around in the fall that can be equally exciting. Great fall colors make stunning backdrops, and can really bring a vibrancy to the image. Stepping back, zooming out, and letting the scene dictate the photos is often the key.

In this photo I enjoy the sense of relationship between subject and environment – the dichotomy is largely only a function of our thought processing. The idea that the “environment” is something other than everything is a little peculiar; the subject IS the environment, as equally as the environment is the subject. There is really no difference between the bear and his habitat. Continue reading

Simpson Hill Overlook and the Copper River

Wrangell Mountains, Sanford, Drum, Zanetti and Wrangell, spring, Copper River, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a photo I took last spring, just at start of the season Alaskans call “breakup”. This photo is taken from the roadside overlook just south of Glennallen, at Simpson Hill. Simpson Hill is rapidly disappearing, as the Copper River (in the foreground) erodes and cuts away at its base. Soon enough the spot may be known as “Simpson Mound”. This is probably one of the very few (maybe 2) iconic viewspots for Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, the largest (and way coolest) National Park in the US. There are certainly many other grand views to be had, and amazing sites, but few that are so frequently photographed from.

The mountains, viewed from this spot, are simply awesome. From left to right, the mountains are Continue reading

Fireweed Mountain, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Fireweed Mountain and reflection, fall, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

This one is for my buddy Mark Vail, who I know has to be getting a little homesick right about now. He’s been gone from his home a few days.

“A few days??”, I hear you ask, “that’s nothing!”

Well, sure it is – to most people. But most people don’t have this view by the trail to their crib, either. 🙂

Fireweed Mountain and a perfect reflection in a small pond, right off the McCarthy Road, taken this last fall, on the end of our Skolai Pass photo tour. Inclement weather suggested we fly out a day earlier than planned, and we made the best of the following morning (which was, of course, gorgeous weather) with some fall colors along the McCarthy Road. You might recall some scenes of Fireweed Mountain in the winter I posted in the past.

We commented on the difference between roadside photography and backcountry photography. One noticeable difference is how nice it is to pull up the vehicle at a likely spot, hop out, scout out some compositions and then start photographing, with the doors to the van wide open and some killer tunes from the ole iPod rockin’ our world as we clicked and clicked away. I think we were listening to Emmylou Harris as we shot this, “Where Will I Be”, from Wrecking Ball. Great album!

We actually had a great day shooting, and got some nice images – markedly different to the high open alpine stuff we’d been photographing up at Skolai Pass the day before. The contrast in scenery was fun, and the colors were great.

I’ll try to mix in some more images from that trip here as I go through my new collection of bear photos from the recent Katmai trip.



Fall Colors in the Taiga

Fall colors glow in the boreal forest, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

While I’m out trudging around in the cold and wet mountains, you get to sit home and read about it, and still see the pictures!

This photo was from my recent trip to the north side of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, off the Nabesna Road. The weather wasn’t super co-operative for grander landscape images, which was a bummer, as there are certainly some grand landscapes to be had in the area. But the weather was good for more intimate scenes, like this one.

The boreal forest is a real treasure, and hiking through it is always a treat. It’s amazing what one can find sometimes – I’v e found everything from moose racks  and caribou racks  to trekking poles, tent stakes and other trash. But this last trip was a first for me. I found a fully-loaded, good condition large caliber centerfire rifle, with a scope, sitting by a tussock in the forest. I packed it out, and handed it in to the Park Service office, and still haven’t found out exactly what happened as to how the rifle came to be there. Pretty crazy stuff.

Other than my trip was,  as always, too brief. Marred by dismal skies, I was really hoping to get some big shots of Mt Sanford, but the mountain was only rarely visible. The final morning of my trip it was out, but distant clouds to the east blocked the sun’s rays from adorning the peak – total bummer. There is a view of the mountain that I think lends itself to as fine a landscape image of grand mountains as any, but I need to put in more time, apparently, to make it happen.

As for the image above,  I spend so much of the summer hiking and trekking in the alpine areas of the park that I don’t get to spend the hours in the forest that I would like. The forest is a special place, and I always enjoy my time there. In the fall, it comes alive with color, and this year was grand, for sure. The color seemed to peak around the end of August, and only a few days later had  noticeably dropped off. I was lucky to catch it before that happened.

I’ll be back (hopefully) from my next trip with some more landscapes, and then we’ll see what the last 2 weeks of September bring for my trips. At the moment, I’m toying with a few ideas, but haven’t set anything in stone so far. We shall see.

Oh, a side note; this kind of more open boreal forest is often referred to as ‘taiga’, which is a so-called Russian word for ‘little sticks’,  expressing the smallish stature of the spruce trees. However, my Russian friend Sergei tells me that in Russia, the word taiga simply means ‘forest’. We’ll have to explore this controversy further and see wherein the truth lies. In the meantime, here’s a quiz; how many various vegetation species can you see here, and what are they (Mark Vail you go last)?



Wendell Berry and Guy Tal.

Winter in the Mentasta Mountains, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park.

A winter sunset over the Mentasta Mountains, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

“The effort to clarify our sight cannot begin in the society, but only in the eye and in the mind. It is a spiritual quest, not a political function. We each must confront the world alone and learn to see it for ourselves”. So says Wendell Berry, one of my favorite writers, in his book “The Unforeseen Wilderness”. The book, a dearly needed plea to save Kentucky’s Red River Gorge from a nefarious plan to dam it, was written nearly 40 years ago. I haven’t read the book completely yet, as I just bought it this afternoon. But I glanced at it, and this passage caught my attention. Berry continues on:

“the figure of the photographic artist – not the tourist-photographer who goes to a place, bound by his intentions and preconceptions, to record what has already been recorded and what he therefore expects to find, but the photographer who goes into a place in search of the real news of it”.* Continue reading

Kuskulana Bridge View, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park

Sunset over the Wrangell Mountains from the Kuskulana Bridge over the Kuskulana Gorge.

hey folks,

I’ll be out for a while now, and won’t be able to post for a bit – maybe a week or 2, I think. In the meantime, here’s a photo from the Kuskulana Bridge over the Kuskulana River, taken back in the winter one evening. This is the bridge on which my van broke down the previous winter, the beginning of a time that lives in infamy.

Til I see ya again, be well.