Mt. Sanford, Mt. Drum, the Copper River and the Night Sky. The moon rise to my left threw a nice soft light on the fog over the Copper River Basin. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
With a host of people heading north this winter/spring to photograph the aurora, I thought it might be of some interest to talk a little about the process of shooting photography at night; I know a lot of people have little experience with that, and it really can be a challenge at times. Particularly on a cold frozen night in Alaska when the northern lights start going crazy overhead.
So, the first thing I’d suggest, if you haven’t already, is read over my 3 part article on shooting the northern lights. There’s a downloadable PDF at the end of that article you can keep for future reference.
So, now that you’re prepared, consider the moment. It’s dark. It’s cold, maybe minus 20 degrees F; cold enough that your hands start to really feel it after a few minutes. It’s dark. You have a headlamp on, and that gives you a little bit of vision out to maybe 30-50 yards or so. After that, you can’t see too much at all. The aurora starts to fire up, and you want to shoot it.
You can’t see your foreground and composition. Its dark. You don’t even know if the foreground is worth shooting. It’s dark. You can’t walk around all over and use your headlamp to see, because (a) there isn’t time, (b) there are other people trying to shoot, (c) you don’t want to track up all the snow by stomping around in it. So setup your test shots. This is probably the most important part of the process. Set up and do your test shots. Continue reading →
Mount Sanford, early morning, fall colors and a kettle pond, boreal forest, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
So while I’m off in Katmai photographing the bears, I’ll schedule a post or 2 from the summer. Here’s a shot of Mt. Sanford not long after sunrise one gorgeous sunny fall morning. What a view!
Black and white photo of Mount Sanford, one of the highest peaks in the Wrangell Mountains, at dawn, from a small frozen kettle pond. Winter snow creates patterns on the frozen lake. Mt. Sanford, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail above to view a larger version of this photo.
Here’s an image of Mount Sanford, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, I took a while ago, that I converted to black and white in photoshop. I shot this after the alpenglow had faded, and the sun rose high enough in the sky to light up not just Mount Sanford’s massive peak, but the entire floor of the Copper River Basin.
It’s very easy to be tempted to pack up and head off after the alpenglow on a mountain wanes; I often find the light immediately following the alpenglow to be unappealing to me. The sky has a weird yellowish tint to it, and the contrast between the dark, shaded foreground and the brightly lit peak is too great to really photograph well; for me, anyway. Continue reading →
Willow Lake and the Wrangell Mountains, wintertime, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska. From left to right, Mt Drum, Mt Sanford, Mt Zanetti, Mt Wrangell. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
Well, maybe not all of them, but some of the stars, for sure.
Mt Drum, Mt Sanford, Mt Zanetti and Mt Wrangell, viewed from Willow Lake, along the Richardson Highway. It’s not always this clear, however, and so many of the people who drive by this scene have no idea what they’re missing. Perhaps more amazingly, when it IS clear, some people drive right by without so much as a glance.
Alpenglow lights up the face of Mt. Sanford. Dawn and reflection in a small kettle pond, fall, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.
Another shot of Mt. Sanford. I know this might be a few too many, but trust me, t’s a REALLY cool mountain. And, if you had any idea how many times I’v tried to take this photo, you’d offer me your sympathies. And maybe some therapy.
So nearly 5 years ago I “found” this little pond and thought ‘ahhh, this could be a nice spot to photograph Mt Sanford from’. And it is. However, the pond is prone to some ripplage, particularly right around dawn, when the alpenglow lights up the mountain. So, all too often, I’ve been thwarted in my efforts; either the pond is rippling and the reflection is lost, or the light is not great, or the mountain not visible (most common). This week I thought I had a good shot at something happening, so I made the trip over to that area and spent a total of 3 mornings trying my hand.
Mount Sanford and reflection, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.
Here’s a shot from my trip this last week to Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I’m so wanting this shot to come together – as many times as I’ve been here, and waited for the right light, it hasn’t happened yet. This particular morning the air was calm, so the reflection was nice, and the mist added a nice touch, but the alpenglow, earlier in the morning, didn’t happen.
What’s the longest hour of a landscape photographer’s day? That hour between when the light first touches the clouds/mountain tops and when the sun actually rises high enough to light up the valley floor. Standing around, wet and cold, for an hour waiting to see if “Stage II” of the morning light happened, is a tough choice. But, then the light comes up, and it’s all forgotten. What fickle creatures we can be.
I’m pressed for time folks, but I’ll try to schedule another post or 2 for this next week. I just got in this evening and am heading out again sunday morning for 10 days. See ya soon.
Dawn touches Mt Sanford, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click the image to see a larger version.
After the George Harrison classic song of the same name – Abbey Road is such a great tune. This song is actually the first Beatles tune I ever learned how to play on guitar. it struck me when I learned it how similar it was to a classic song my favorite band at the time, Cream. The song ‘Badge’ has a similar intro-guitar riff. Come to find out that George Harrison actually co-wrote the Cream tune with Eric Clapton, for the Goodbye album, and it was that same song-writing session that produced “Here Comes the Sun” for Abbey Road. On the record, Harrison’s song-writing name was “L’angelo Mysterioso”. Sly devil.
This photo is of Mount Sanford, as the peak reaches high into the cold night air to meet the first light of the coming morning. The light gracefully kisses the mountain top good morning, and comes down to say hello to my cold fingers an hour or so later.