It’s been quite a while since I’ve been out to Goose Bay at sunset.
A few years back I was a regular visitor to this wild and scenic area. But, even though it’s only a 45 minute drive from my home, these soaring and ridiculous gasoline prices have kept me away for a long time now.
Too long, in fact.
So yesterday, after watching some interesting looking clouds forming in the west, I decided that conditions might be good for a pretty sunset and headed out there late in the afternoon.
I arrived a little early, the sun was still quite high in the sky, but I didn’t mind. I walked along the muddy shoreline without my camera for a while, listening to the ice rushing by with the outgoing tide while I scouted for likely compositions for a photograph. I had the entire place to myself, not another soul around, and I enjoyed the solitude very much.
I think I was needing some peace and quiet, and time alone in a pretty Alaskan type place. A place like Goose Bay.
Finally the sun was nearing the horizon and it was time to set up. The spot I had chosen was not too far from my vehicle so I didn’t need to carry a lot of other gear, just my Nikon, a 12mm-24mm lens and my tripod. I also slipped on my insulated bibs and some warmer boots because I could feel the air already getting cooler as the sun dropped lower.
I stayed out there until dark, until the color had completely left the sky. I know that sounds like it must have been really late when I headed back home, but it wasn’t. It was only five o’clock.
The days up here are already way too short.
Although the sunset wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for as far as interest and color, it was still quite beautiful and I managed to come back with some beautiful photographs of it.
I’ll look at them frequently over the next few days to remind myself of the beauty that surrounds me here in Alaska.
Sometimes I have a tendency to forget.
I’ve just returned from 6 very enjoyable days of moose hunting and camping with my daughters family and her husbands family. It was a scenic 7 hour ride from Eureka, on the Glenn highway, back to their camp on the Big O’Shetna River, a place I’d never been before. Randy, Jenny’s husband, and his brother Ben picked me up at the trail head on Tuesday afternoon after they’d phoned me on Sunday saying they’d broken a leaf spring on Randy’s Surburban. I found a replacement in Anchorage and was more than happy to accept the invitation to spend a few days at their camp when I delivered it on Tuesday.
When I arrived Dakota had already bagged a nice bull moose and it was hanging near camp. He was a very happy young man. It was good to see my other grandchildren, too, and I think they were glad to see their Grandpa, even though he always seemed to have a camera in his hands.
During the time I spent with them we bagged two more moose, both much smaller than Dakota’s, and by the time Saturday rolled around we were out of room in the vehicles and had to quit hunting. But that was all right because it gave me some time to take a few hikes looking for interesting pictures to take.
We headed out of camp at 10:00 a.m. Sunday, fully expecting to be back to the trailhead by 4 or 5 o’clock, but because of some difficulties and mechanical problems along the trail it was after 8:00 in the evening when we reached our destination. Needless to say we were all pretty tired by that time. It felt good to slide behind the steering wheel of my pickup and feel that soft, comfortable seat cushion beneath me as I made the two hour long trip back to my home in Wasilla. I was ready for a hot shower, a warm comfortable bed, and other modern conveniences, if you catch my drift.
Following are a few photos from this wonderful adventure.
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On Saturday, as a kind of spur of the moment thing, Becky and I took a quick drive up the Glenn Highway to look at the fall colors and perhaps make a few photographs as well.
We did all right on both counts.
Along the way I stopped to show Becky where I should have been standing last autumn when a semi hauling a load of propane missed a corner and sent its trailer nearly 200 feet
down a steep embankment. It was at a spot I’d been stopping to photograph quite regularly last year, and by my calculations would have been there at the exact moment of the accident except for some unexpected events that kept me at home that day. The long scar in the forest where the trailer slid down the mountain is still there.
Becky seemed quite impressed, and a little nervous about standing there.
On our way we also stopped by our son’s cabin for a while, and even talked about buying a piece of property up there ourselves.
Wasilla just doesn’t have that “Alaska Feeling” anymore. We’ve been missing that feeling quite a bit lately. Maybe we should look into some property along the northern reaches of the Glenn Highway.
We were back home in about four hours, early enough to catch the sunset and to watch the full moon rise from behind the far reaches of the Chugach Mountains.
It was a good getaway, especially for Becky. I’m pretty sure she needed a little break from her regular weekly routine.
Have a good day everyone.
It’s quite normal to see small aircraft in the skies over Alaska. Hundreds of them are aloft each and every day. But it is a rare occurrence when I see a para glider. This craft and it’s pilot just happened to appear last night as I had my camera and tripod set up for another picture I was taking. I quickly changed modes and was able to capture this beautiful sight as he flew over a portion of the Chugach Mountain range dappled with soft evening light from the setting sun.
Yesterday I drove up the Glenn Highway aways, to one of my favorite locations for shooting fall scenery. It was pretty as usual, but the lighting wasn’t quite right, too intense and steady. What I needed was just a few more clouds interacting with the sun to create some interesting shadows, and some hot spots of sunlight in the beautiful foliage all around me. But that didn’t happen though, so after a couple of hours I drove back down the highway to the Hicks Creek rest area, hoping I might find something of interest there.
And that’s where I met David Scheidt of Valdez, Alaska.
I was walking back to my pickup after a short and unproductive hike, thinking of going back home since conditions weren’t really very good for the kind of photography I wanted to do, when I noticed another vehicle besides mine in the otherwise empty parking area. Nearby a man and his dog were walking towards a brushy hillside, studying the ground as they walked along. That was all pretty normal, something you see nearly every day in Alaska. What wasn’t at all normal was what was tethered to the man’s arm with a short cord.
A hawk. Not just any hawk but a beautiful one to boot.
As they got a little closer to me the man smiled and asked me if I’d seen any rabbits while I was out walking around.
I hadn’t, but I wasn’t really looking for them either.
He said he was looking for rabbits to give the hawk a chance to capture his own meal. Usually, he said, if there were rabbits in the vicinity his dog, a black lab I believe, would become very active, working the underbrush until he flushed one. When that happened the hawk would be released from his tether to take to the sky and perhaps bag his own meal.
David told me he has rehabilitated many wild raptors such as this bird, a Harlan’s Redtail Hawk, and that capturing their own food was one of the things they must re-learn before being released into the wild once again.
We chatted for quite a spell, David and I, and I must say that I learned many new things about raptors in that time. It was quite educational for me.
Before we parted I asked if I could take a few pictures of the beautiful bird to put in my blog. David was more than agreeable and even encouraged the it to spread its wings for a more dramatic photo.
It was, as I said, a beautiful autumn day and the pictures I took of David and the hawk more than made up for the somewhat ho-hum landscape photos I’d taken earlier.
Thank you, David. I truly enjoyed the short time we spent together yesterday, and the conversation we shared.
About these pictures
When I asked David if I could take his picture the only lens I had available was the one I happened to have on my camera at the time, an old Nikon 50mm 1.8 Series E manual focus lens from the 1970′s. I’ve really become attached to this old lens for landscape pictures in recent weeks because of the beautiful colors it renders, and for it’s incredibly sharp optics.
But normally, for landscape photography, I’m shooting distant object and don’t have to worry about it being manual focus. I just twist the focus ring until it stops at the infinity mark and that’s what I get, perfect infinity focus. There is no focusing involved at all, and that’s a good thing for these old eyes of mine.
Yesterday was different though. David and his bird were much closer than infinity, they were only 10 or 12 feet away from me. Although I did my best to quickly bring them into sharp focus I just wasn’t sure how accurate I’d been. From looking at the camera’s LCD screen I knew I had some good shots but I still worried all the way home that they would be soft and fuzzy when they appeared on my computer monitor.
I needn’t have worried. They are amazingly sharp and beautiful. So good in fact that I called Becky out to my studio to look at them. I am so thankful that I was able to my part with the old lens, and in return it did it’s part, giving me some beautiful portraits of David Scheidt and his Harlan’s Redtail Hawk.
All of the above pictures were taken with the old lens, including the landscape photo at the top of the page. The picture of David holding the hawk in the air is basically how it looked right out of the camera. The only post processing was to apply auto contrast with Photoshop Elements and a little re-sizing to open more rapidly in this blog. I did no sharpening at all.
Camera specs for all of them are basically the same:
Camera: Nikon D300S, Lens: Nikon 50mm 1.8 Series E manual focus. The lens was set to f8 which is where, I have discovered, it takes the best pictures for me. ISO was 200 and the shutter speed, approximately, was 1/200th. second. My camera doesn’t record the shutter speed with this old lens, that’s why I’m only guessing. Lighting on these photographs was natural. No fill lighting nor auxiliary lighting was used.
I really love this lens.
Ken Rockwell has a review of this old school manual focus lens. You can find it here if you’re interested:
My lens is similar to the one in the top photo on his page.
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I spent most of the afternoon and evening yesterday at the top of Hatcher Pass just hanging out, waiting for perfect clouds and sunset. I arrived much too early in the day, around 3:00 p.m. I think, and therefore had to find something to keep me occupied so I wouldn’t get discouraged and go back home. So I parked in a rather popular parking area, one that offered a trail to a hilltop overlooking Summit Lake, and spent most of the afternoon making silhouette photos of various visitors as they hiked along that trail. The clouds were dramatic, to say the least, and they made very interesting backdrops. These photos were really easy to take. I simply sat inside my pickup and shot through the windshield whenever I thought the composition looked right. And since the wind was brisk and chilly outside I was more than happy to stay warm, listen to the radio, and eat my sandwich as I took pictures. It was a pretty pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
After a while though, I got bored, so I drove a few miles down the road and found some nice colorful early autumn leaves looking like they wanted me to take their picture. And I did. But then I began to feel some sprinkles of rain falling on my head. Since it was 6:00 p.m. by then I nearly decided to give up waiting for sunset, still nearly 3 hours away, and head back home. Sometimes I don’t like rain very much.
However, by the time I got back to the Summit Lake area the sun was shining again.
“What the heck,” I said to myself, “I’ve been here this long, I may as well stay until dark and see what happens.”
So saying, I parked my pickup in a handy little pullout beside the road, gathered the gear I thought I’d need, including a tripod, then hiked up a steep, rocky, moss covered hillside nearby until I had a good view of Summit Lake, with a beautiful vista behind it where I hoped to see the sun set among beautifully colored clouds.
Two hours later, perhaps a little more, I was still sitting there. Waiting.
But presently the sun finally did go behind some mountains and the sky and clouds began taking on some color, not as beautiful as I’d hoped for, but colorful enough for some decent photos. Finally, sometime after 9:00 p.m., I realized it was getting dark, so I folded up my tripod and made my way down the hillside, being very careful not to slip on the wet moss and stones then tumble to the bottom of the hill. By then everyone had left and I was on the mountain all by myself, with no cell service. The last thing I wanted to do was spend the night up there by myself with a broken something or other.
But I made it safely, and at a little after 10:00 p.m. I walked into the house to be greeted by Schnitzle and Becky, who were just going to bed.
I was still cold from my photographic marathon, and pretty tired too, so I was more than happy to join them.
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Have a wonderful day day everyone.
I’ve been spending a bit of time on Hatcher Pass with my camera again. There was quite a spell when I just didn’t have the desire to spend much time up there because I felt that all of my pictures were beginning to look alike. And in fact, I’m pretty sure they were. But now that I’ve decided to return I’m finding new perspectives and new inspirations.
On Saturday Becky & I spent an afternoon around Summit Lake, and over on the Willow side of the pass too, taking a few pictures and just looking around. It was raining steadily, and the road and hillsides were busy with berry pickers, but we managed to while away about four hours anyway, despite those impediments.
I tried to fashion some rain covers for our cameras out of large baggies, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be applying for any patents on my invention. It worked, sort of, but was mighty unhandy and awkward to use. I guess I’m going to have to send off for one of those authentic rain covers I found on the Internet at fifty dollars each, especially since it looks as if it going to be raining from now on in Alaska.
I also made the drive to the top of the pass on Sunday evening and also Monday night. From my house I am able to see if there are any interesting clouds up there and it doesn’t take too much to persuade me to make the drive if there are. Besides, now that the sun is beginning to set a reasonable hour, I don’t have to stay up all night long waiting for interesting lighting for my photographs.
I don’t know for sure yet if I’ll be going back up today, since it is presently raining and the clouds around here are low and gray. But conditions could change, I guess. I’ll just wait and see.
Below are a few of our photos in Hatcher Pass from the past few days.
Have a nice day everyone. Hope it’s not raining at your home. Unless, of course, you want it to rain.
Thunderbird Falls is about a half hour drive from our home in Wasilla. The trailhead is accessed from the Old Glenn Highway near the Eklutna Lake road. From there it is only a half mile hike to the falls along a well developed trail. The first 200 yards of the trail is a fairly steep climb but after that it levels out and the hike through the forest is pleasant.
Becky and I decided to visit the falls on Saturday afternoon since the weather looked pretty nice, and because just sitting around the house was causing me to get on her nerves. Also, too, because I had never been there in my 25 years in Alaska and Becky had been there only once, way back in ’89.
The parking lot at the trailhead was pretty much full, with only a couple of spots open when we arrived. There is a $5.00 per day fee charged for parking and I was lucky enough, or perhaps unlucky enough, to have exactly five one dollar bills in my wallet to pay the fee.
As we began the short hike it became obvious that we were not going to be alone. The trail was a busy place and we continually met groups of dogs and their people as we hiked along, occasionally stopping to take pictures and breathers.
Eventually we came to the nicely built viewing platform from which we could see the falls about a hundred yards distant. They are nice falls with lots of water tumbling over them.
From the viewing platform we walked back down the trail from whence we came then took a side branch leading down the hill to the base of the falls. Here again we met up with many dogs pulling their people back up the somewhat steep hill with a leash.
Up close the falls are somewhat more impressive, with more
and louder rumbling and a considerable amount of mist being flung about. I ventured closer to them, using wet and slippery rocks as stepping stones, then took several pictures using a slow shutter speed, trying to make the flowing water look silky and cool. I finally got one that was only a little blurry. By the time I got it, however, my lens had become speckled with droplets of mist so I gave up and made my way back to where Becky had been watching me, fearful I might slip.
It was a nice getting out of the house and into the fresh air for a couple hours as we did, but by the time we arrived back at our home it was raining again. Hard rain, too. But that was okay. We’re getting used to it. We just ignored it as usual while Becky fixed us some tasty bologna sandwiches. Then we just settled in for the rest of the day, she in the recliner reading a book on her Kindle and myself on the couch, watching the Mariners on television.
Just another rainy Saturday in Alaska.
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