Category Archives: Travel

Travel photos, tourism and tourists, adventure and exotic photos.

Moraine Lake Hiking

Tourist watching people canoeing on Moraine Lake, Banff, Canada.

A tourist hiker stands beside the shores of Moraine Lake and watches people canoeing on the lake The grand scenery of Moraine Lake and the Wenkchemna Peaks, or 10 Peaks at Moraine Lake make the area a popular tourist destination for hiking, canoeing, photography and adventures. Hiker, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Click the image to see how good I look in red.

hey Folks

I was scanning through some images recently and stumbled on to this one. Here’s me in stunning mauve at Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, in Alberta Canada.

Most photographers know how much difference putting a person or 2 in the photo can make to the salability of an image. And adding some color makes a difference as well.

But the image must tell a story. For stock photography, the more generic the story might be, the more possible different uses it might have. This could be a tourist, a hiker, someone lost, a photographer, etc. It could even be someone advertising Arcteryx jackets.

But the real story of this photo, for me, is my first time to Moraine Lake. I spend a whole day just soaking up the grandeur of this place. I can think of very few places that are so simply pretty as the Canadian Rockies. They’re almost picture perfect. Many other places have a wonder all their own, and I’d never forsake the wildness of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, for example, for the Canadian Rockies. But for sheer ‘hop out of the car and be amazed’ classical mountain beauty, the Canadian Rockies have it going on.

I’d been to Jasper National Park a few times, photographing wildlife there. I’d driven through Banff in order to get to Jasper. And I’d thought to myself ‘wow, Banff is pretty’ more than once. But the first time I drive up to Moraine Lake, got out the car and walked over to the lake, it just floored me. I walked along the lake’s edge, and sat and stared at everything. At the detail or these incredible peaks above me, the silence of the montane forest, and that water. That amazing water. It just absolutely blew me away.

They day was cloudy, it was early in the summer, and few people were around; those that were had taken rental canoes out on the lake, and I had the shoreline pretty much to myself. So I just sat and soaked it in. If you ever go to Banff National Park, and I recommend that you do, at least once in your life, give yourself plenty of time up at Moraine Lake. It takes time just to see it – you can’t stand at the overlook, glance around, and see it all. give yourself a day, and embrace the place. Your life will be richer for it.

More photos of Banff National Park.



Manufactured Landscapes – a film review.

Colorful duplex and garden, Orsono, Chile.

Colorful duplex and garden, Orsono, Chile. Please click the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

I’m depressed. I just watched “Manufactured Landscapes”, (2006) and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. It’s a pretty intense documentary, featuring amazing photography by Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky creates some powerful imagery of some of the most unlikely subjects – largely industrial wasteland. Coal mines, dams, factories (the opening shot shows the inside of a factory over three quarters of a kilometer long), parking lots, construction sites, destruction sites, you name it. It’s compelling stuff – the beauty in his photos is moving, yet discomforting. The reality he brings to the viewer is a bit overwhelming; this stuff IS our world, today.

The film is set in China, largely, though the narration points out that this industrial development is global; almost all of the products being pieced together in factories throughout China consist of raw materials shipped in from around the globe, then shipped back off to meet demand overseas. The stark reality here is that China’s environmental problem is our problem; insatiable demand from the “developed” world is altering not just the landscape, but the land itself. Continue reading

Bridge to Nowhere – Gilahina Trestle, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park.

The Gilahina Trestle fades into winter, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Alaska’s Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere – The Gilahina Trestle fades into winter, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click for larger version.

Hey Folks,

The Gilahina Trestle, crossing the Gilahina River, was once an impressive structure. Built in 1911 as part of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway (nicknamed “Can’t Run and Never Will”), the Gilahina Trestle was not quite 900′ long, and nearly 100′ high. Rumors say that it took less than 8 days to build, and the first train ran across its length on January 28, 1911. It’s since fallen into some disrepair, as is evident from this image. It’s a rickety ole job, at this point, and walking across it with nearly a foot of snow covering each board was, uhhm, sketchy. But I made it out for a few photos and back in one piece.

The Gilahina Trestle is now listed on the National Historic Register, which means it’ll probably come in for some funding to repair/restore it. Continue reading

Denali, Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Denali, or Mt McKinley, and reflection in a small tundra pond, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Early morning photo of Denali, Or Mt. McKinley, and reflection in a small tundra pond, Denali National Park, Alaska. Click on the thumbnail for a larger image.

Hey Folks,

A few years ago I spent a glorious week in Denali National Park and Preserve, camped out in the backcountry at one of my favorite spots to hang – a high ridge to the north of Denali, or Mt. McKinley as it’s officially known (see this post for a discussion concerning the name of the mountain). After too many years and way too many footsteps across the tundra, I finally happened to be in the right place at the right time. Previous trips had me wet, cold, hungry, and wondering where this infamous mountain actually was (hidden, veiled behind the infernal clouds). This one was gloriously different.

So just how much do I like this little spot? Well, in 2007 I took my mum and dad to Denali National Park and Preserve on their trip to Alaska and force-marched them up over the hills and across the tundra to this pond one afternoon. It’s a pretty spot to sit on the tundra, have some lunch, look for wildlife (we saw caribou) and soak up the mountain’s grandeur. They had a grand time. Continue reading

Grizzly Bear at Sunset and Grizzly Bear Fall Photo Tour

A Grizzly bear rests at Sunset

Hey Folks,

NB: I’ve now added this trip to the main section of guiding website, Expeditions Alaska. By all means, browse this page, but please also visit the trip page here.

I’m excited to announce a Grizzly Bears in the Fall photo Tour for 2010. Details are posted on my Expeditions Alaska website but I’ll copy it here as well:

This coming year, 2010, I’m running a new phototour to Katmai National Park and Preserve; we’ll be basecamping in remote southwest Alaska, photographing grizzly bears, dawn til dusk, for a week. Katmai National Park is home to some of the largest grizzly bears (or “brown bears” as they’re often called in that region) in the world. Feeding largely on salmon from some of the richest salmon runs in Alaska, the bears are magnificent creatures and there’s no better time to photograph them than in the fall. This trip offers an unsurpassed opportunity to photograph wild grizzly bears in a remote and brilliantly wild setting and promises some simply incredible photographic possibilities.


– Trip #1: Sept 19-25, 2010.

– Trip #2: Sept 26-Oct 2, 2010

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.



Mt. Bona and the Russell Glacier

Mt Bona and Mt Churchill, the Russell Glacier, alpenglow, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

I just got back from a totally awesome trip to Skolai Pass – some great weather, wonderful folks for company, and we all had a killer time in the coolest place in the world – Skolai Pass! This image was taken the first evening, after we backpacked up to Chitistone Pass, walked south to the Russell Glacier, and watched the alpenglow rock Mt Bona (on the right) and Mt Churchill (center).

The rest of the trip I hiked around the area and had a blast. I didn’t hardly shoot anything, of course, because my *#^$$*#^# camera ceased working the following morning. One of the people on the trip was kind enough to let me use his backup camera, which was WAY cool. Thanks Doug!

Always have a backup camera body with you.



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)?