Archive for the ‘Landscapes’ Category

My Favorite Photos — 2013   8 comments

The past year was a pretty good one photography-wise.  It was aided immensely by two trips — a long weekend in New York City and a two-week trip to Utah.  The Utah trip, planned months in advance, occurred during the first two weeks of October and was severely disrupted by the federal government shutdown.  However, we were able to visit some spectacular areas not under federal management, and sneaked into quite a few national parks anyway.  In short, neither the vacation nor the photography suffered too much.  (But that is not forgiveness.  We are governed by children.)

Following are my favorite photos of 2013.  I hope you enjoy them.  And as always, thanks for following my photo blog and for your kind comments throughout the year!

January:  Canada Geese in flight; Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (Pennsylvania)

January: Canada Geese in flight; Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (Pennsylvania)

February: Tundra Swans at takeoff; Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (Pennsylvania)

February: Tundra Swans at takeoff; Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (Pennsylvania)

February: Snow Geese in flight; Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (Pennsylvania)

February: Snow Geese in flight; Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (Pennsylvania)

March: Grave, Unknown Soldier; Annapolis, Maryland

March: Grave, Unknown Soldier; Annapolis, Maryland

April: Sunrise over the Atlantic; Virginia Beach.

April: Sunrise over the Atlantic; Virginia Beach. No color saturation added.

April: Boardwalk and beach; Virginia Beach.  Digital manipulation.

April: Boardwalk and beach; Virginia Beach. Digital manipulation.

May: Street Musician, Central Market, Lancaster, PA.

May: Street Musician, Central Market, Lancaster, PA.

July:  Street scene: Washington Square Park, New York City.

July: Street scene: Washington Square Park, New York City.

July:  Street scene; Washington Square Park, New York City.

July: Street scene; Washington Square Park, New York City.

July:  Warehouse lights; New York City.  Digital manipulation.

July: Warehouse lights; New York City. Digital manipulation.

October:  Melanie is not impressed.  We hiked in anyway.  (Not a great photo.  Just a "screw you, Congress" photo.)

October: Melanie is not impressed. We hiked in anyway. (Not a great photo. Just a “What were you thinking, Congress?” photo.)

October:  Aspens at forest edge; Grand Canyon National Park, AZ.

October: Aspens at forest edge; Grand Canyon National Park, AZ. Digital manipulation.

October:  Eastern edge, Grand Canyon, as we hiked into the park toward Point Imperial.

October: Eastern edge, Grand Canyon, as we hiked into the park from a national forest road, toward Point Imperial.

October:  Point Imperial vista, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ;  It was just us at this overlook thanks to the shutdown.

October: Point Imperial vista, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ; We were alone at this overlook thanks to the shutdown. A 5 mile hike round trip.

October:  Milky Way on the horizon:  at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.

October: Milky Way on the horizon: at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.

October:  Milky Way rising; at Devils Den (near Escalante), Utah.

October: Milky Way rising; at Devils Den (near Escalante), Utah.

October:  Monument Valley vista;  Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah / Arizona.

October: Monument Valley vista; Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah / Arizona.

October:  Dunes at sunrise;  Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.

October: Dunes at sunrise; Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah.

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October: Slot canyon; near Escalante, Utah.

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October: Slot canyon; near Escalante, Utah.

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October: Melanie exploring a slot canyon; near Escalante, Utah.

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October: Cisco (abandoned town); north of Moab, Utah.

October:  Cisco (abandoned town); north of Moab, Utah.

October: Cisco (abandoned town); north of Moab, Utah.

October:  Cisco (abandoned town); north of Moab, Utah.

October: Cisco (abandoned town); north of Moab, Utah.

October:  Desert scene; near Corona Arch (Moab Area), Utah.

October: Desert scene; near Corona Arch (Moab Area), Utah.

October:  Natural window; near Corona Arch (Moab area), Utah.

October: Natural window; near Corona Arch (Moab area), Utah.

October:  Three Sisters at Sunrise; Arches National Park, Utah.

October: Three Sisters at Sunrise; Arches National Park, Utah.

October:  Panorama; Arches National Park, Utah.

October: Panorama; Arches National Park, Utah.

October:  Desert scene; Arches National Park, Utah.

October: Desert scene; Arches National Park, Utah.

Delicate Arch at Sunset; Arches National Park, Utah.

Delicate Arch at Sunset; Arches National Park, Utah.

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Posted January 5, 2014 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Nature and Wildlife, Street, Uncategorized

Alaska Trip (Part 9) — Gwich’in Hunting Camp   1 comment

As my friend Rob reminded me, I haven’t posted anything here for a while.  I’ve been doing a lot of photography work — and even had a couple of my photos selected for a 2013 regional calendar — but there’s no doubt I’ve neglected Photoriety.  So if hurricane Sandy doesn’t bring the power down (it’s raining sort of sideways at the moment) I’ll pick up on one of the highlights of our trip to Arctic Village, namely our visit to the Gwich’in summer hunting camp.

Hunting camp was a 4 to 5 mile hike “up mountain” to a plateau overlooking the valley where the Chandalar river separates Gwich’in land from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and a couple of miles below the peak of the mountain on which we camped.  It is a breathtaking view as well as a breath-taking climb, and our visit to hunting camp was one of the primary reasons that I lost 8 pounds in twenty days.  That I shed those pounds despite eating half a dozen of Marion’s stolen-recipe biscuits is testament to the level of exertion.  Four of us did twenty miles in a twenty-four hour period.  If that sounds self-congratulatory, well . . . I guess it is.  I don’t think I can ever thank David Radcliff enough for challenging me both physically and mentally on this trip.  I’ve shed a total of 30 pounds in the last ten months, and if I ever start to put them back on I’ll just go on another New Community Project trip.  As David says, “No charge for the weight-loss program.”

So here are photos from our treks to and around hunting camp.

(Above)  Several of our group head up mountain.  The Gwich’in hauled food and gear up to camp on ATVs for us, although Melanie and I decided to carry our gear up on our backs (part of the challenge).  Gotta say, my wife is quite a trooper.

(Above)  We didn’t leave for camp until evening and arrived after 9:00 p.m., although there was still plenty of light left in the day.  The colors and scenery were exceptional, but I had to wait several minutes for my heart rate to come down before I could take this photo.  It was markedly cooler up here than down at the village.  That point was driven home the next morning when I stripped down to my skivvies and washed up in a nearby stream.  Now that was breath-taking!

(Above)  The log pole structure served as our kitchen area.  The plastic sheeting is used to enclose the structure and smoke / cure caribou meat during hunting season.  Thin strips of meat are suspended on the poles while a small fire burns below.  This sheeting was no longer usable, so before we left we tore it down and took it back to the village for disposal.  Ground squirrels in particular will sometimes attempt to eat the plastic, with fatal results.

(Above)  The only other “permanent” structure was this canvass sidewall tent where our Gwich’in hosts Marion, Marie, Derek, and Deena slept.  Here Melanie stands near the tent for a little shelter from the cold wind.

(Above)  Melanie photographs out toward ANWR while we wait for the food and kitchen supplies to arrive.  It was approaching 10 p.m., we had hiked 4 to 5 miles up mountain, and hadn’t had dinner yet.  Photography was a good distraction from hunger!

(Above)  Nay Quoy accompanied us up to camp and slept about 100 feet uphill from the main structure.  His job?  Keep an eye out for any approaching bear.  Two years earlier, Marion had shot and killed a grizzly that was circling camp and acting aggressive.  Nay Quoy was quite at home sleeping out doors.  He made a nice little “nest” in the tundra grass, curled up, and covered his snout with his long bushy tail.  I suspect that sleeping in 30 degree temperatures is a piece of cake for the dogs in Arctic Village.

(Above)  After dinner we were treated to a midnight sunset.  These mountains are part of the Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Melanie and I were exhausted, but would not have missed this show for anything . . .

(Above)  The next morning Derek was up and ready to go.  He followed me down to the stream when I fetched water, which provided me with the opportunity to carry both the water and Derek back up the hill.  It was just the beginning of a rigorous day.

(Above)  Marion Swaney got a fire going in the morning and made a pot of “cowboy coffee” — pot, water, grounds.  Filters?  We don’t need no stinkin’ filters!  The coffee was delicious and, thankfully, hot.  Spit out the grounds or chew on them — your choice.

(Above)  We took two hikes that day — a four mile round trip hike to the top of the ridge and back in the morning, and then a 12 mile round trip hike to another mountain overlooking Old John Lake in the afternoon / evening.  The morning hike provided us with this view of Arctic Village and the Brooks Range mountains in the distance.

(Above)  No grizzlies, only ground squirrels on our morning hike.

(Above)  On the afternoon / evening hike, Jim, David, Judith, and I were treated to more spectacular high-elevation scenery.  We were well above tree line for most of this hike, and we were glad for the cooler temperatures considering all the climbing we were doing.

(Above)  David (holding camera), Jim, and Judith on the peak overlooking Old John Lake.  It was a spectacular 360-degree vista.  We ate some power bars and trail mix and got ready for the six miles (mostly downhill) back.

(Above)  Jim – carrying the rifle — follows David and Judith on the trail back toward hunting camp.  After 16 miles in one day, I’m sure my friends all slept as well as I did that night!

Posted October 29, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Nature and Wildlife, Uncategorized

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Alaska Trip (Part 7) — On The Ground in Arctic Village   2 comments

After the spectacular 300 mile flight from Fairbanks we were all anxious to leave the airstrip and meet our hosts in Arctic Village.  For half of our eight-person group it was a return trip.  For the other half — Melanie and me included — it was a new experience.  And to be honest I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  I have been on native reservations in the lower 48, but those were easy drives from the motels we were staying at.  Arctic Village — as I mentioned in my last post — is 150 miles from the nearest road.  We were here to stay until our flight out a week later.

Part of the deal when you fly a prop plane is that you travel light.  Each person was allotted 40 pounds, and Melanie and I had spent a good deal of time weighing our packs and gear before we ever left Pennsylvania.  The combined 80 pound limit seemed like plenty, except that had to include the weight of a tent, stakes, rainfly, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads before we even got to the usual clothing, toiletries, and so forth.  Oh yeah, and my camera gear weighed in at 8 pounds — so there went 10% of our allocation.  In the end, we managed quite nicely by washing things out in streams and lakes, and by — how shall I put this? — extending the wearing period.

Back to the point of this post, Arctic Village.  We were prepared to carry our gear the mile from the airstrip into the village, but instead found our hosts waiting for us with ATVs and a pickup truck.  In a matter of minutes we were transported to the home of Charlie and Marion Swaney, who hosted us in their home for the week.  Several of our party slept in the house while the rest of us found a beautiful location for our tents, about 400 or 500 yards behind Charlie’s and Marion’s house.

Anxious to walk around the village, Melanie and I quickly set up our tent and then set out to explore.  Below are our first experiences in Arctic Village:

(Above)  Loading our gear onto the ATVs at the airstrip.  The ride on the back of the pickup truck sure beat walking into town . . . although I had no inkling of the amount of hiking I would end up doing in the week ahead.

(Above)  Trivia question:  What is this?  If you said two 15 gallon gas cans you’re only partially correct.  The real answer is that it is $300.  That’s because gas has to be flown into Arctic Village, raising the price to $10 per gallon.  Now consider that the Alaskan pipeline passes only 100 or so miles from the village and has delivered billions of gallons of crude over the years — little of it benefitting the Gwich’in people in the village — and the perversity of the situation is striking.

(Above)  Our host, Charlie Swaney — hunter extraordinaire, environmentalist, advocate for the Gwich’in way of life, and truly great guy.  I miss our conversations already.

(Above)  Charlie’s wife, Marion Swaney, was our host both in the village and — later in the week — up at hunting camp.  She introduced the subject of “Wanda”, a mythical (?) wilderness woman who apparently tends to keep the men away from home when they go out hunting for caribou and moose.  I promised her I’d come back to Arctic Village since I somehow missed out on any Wanda-encounters on this trip.

(Above)  One of several beautiful little lakes behind the Swaney home.  This was the view that greeted us every morning when we awoke.  It was also the probable source of the mosquitos that rejoiced in our presence.

(Above)  Our own version of “Occupy the Tundra”.  The tundra grasses were wonderfully colorful and SOFT.  Very nice to sleep on.

(Above)  David Radcliff demonstrated his technique for keeping mosquitos out of ears and eyes.  As the week went by I really learned to appreciate windy days.  The wind drove off the pesky insects and provided some relief.  (According to Charlie, mosquito season was pretty much over by the time we arrived.  I still managed to empty half a bottle of DEET.)

(Above)  Melanie unpacks the sleeping bags from the compression sacks, with the tent doors zipped tight to keep the mosquitos outside.  At night we could hear the high-pitched noise of dozens? hundreds? of mosquitos just outside the tent.

(Above)  The lakes around us were home to this — and other — Loons.  Lying in the tent and listening to them in the morning was wonderful.

(Above)  Arctic Village has a mixture of modern, old, and in some cases abandoned, buildings.  There are about 140 to 150 residents, although the Gwich’in nation in total is much larger and stretches through the Canadian Yukon and Northern Alaskan regions.  Here are two of the newer buildings: the post office and the school.

(Above)  There was some construction going on in the village.  Here, a second story is being added to a home.

(Above)  The setting for these homes is stunning.  The mountain behind this home is located in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, across the Chandalar River from the village.

(Above)  A view of the village edge from the banks of the Chandalar River, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Note the plane coming in to the airstrip.

(Above)  My camera didn’t do justice to the scale of the mountains.  Here is a plane coming into the airstrip, with the mountain as a backdrop.  The mountains are part of Alaska’s Brooks Range.

(Above)  One of the older log homes abandoned in favor of more weather-tight new construction.

(Above)  The newer Episcopal Church where Sunday services are held.  Sarah James — village elder and activist — asked us to help clean and organize the inside of the church, which we did later in the week.  Several folks in our party organized and held the Sunday service in this church, with some village members in attendance.

(Above)  The old historical church which has been restored.  Sarah invited us into the church, and she spent several hours speaking to us about Gwich’in life, history, and modern-day challenges.

(Above)  One of the challenges is that none of the homes in Arctic Village has running water or indoor plumbing.  That means daily trips to the water purification building — about a quarter mile from Charlie and Marion’s house — and, of course, trips to the outhouse when nature calls.

(Above)  The water purification equipment is located in the “Washeteria” — the only place you can go to get a shower or use a modern washer and dryer.  For people whose average annual income is around $17,000 per household, these fees — like the cost of gasoline — are prohibitive.  And I was very depressed to learn that as a 55 year-old I am considered an “elder” in Gwich’in culture.  I guess it’s like carrying an AARP card — the benefits are negligible and it makes me feel old.

(Above)  Dogs outnumber the people in Arctic Village.  Charlie explained that they serve as watch dogs around the village and when out hunting (as well as companions, of course).  We brought this male, Nay Quoy, along to hunting camp in case any bear or wolves approached the camp.  A few years ago a starving wolf (with porcupine quills in it’s mouth) came into the village and attacked some of the dogs, so the predator threat is real.  Still, all of Charlie’s dogs were gentle and friendly, and I found it hard to walk past any of them without stopping to say hello.  The Swaney’s had (I believe) six dogs.

(Above)  This guy was named “Chance”.  He was along the path leading back to our tent, so I probably spent more time with Chance than any of the others.  He would get so excited when we passed by that I felt guilty if I didn’t stop.

(Above)  Woody was the youngest of the bunch, and quite a character.  He was king of the snow machine (not snow mobile) and always looked ready to fire it up and take off.  By the way, that’s a 550cc engine in that snow machine.  Charlie uses it to pull a sled loaded with fire wood in the winter.  He estimated that he brings in 300 to 400 sled-loads of firewood for the village every winter.

(Above)  Life is hard in Arctic Village, but it does have some benefits.  Here is a million-dollar view from the Swaney’s front porch, late in the evening.

In my next post I’ll try to cover what I know and learned about the Gwich’in people.  Of all my Alaska posts, I hope that will be the one you read.  Because WE hold the fate of these people in our hands.

Posted September 10, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Nature and Wildlife, People, Travel Photography

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Alaska Trip (Part 6) — Flying to Arctic Village   1 comment

In my very first Alaska trip post I mentioned that our trip to Alaska was actually two separate learning tours with New Community Project.  The second part of our journey was to Arctic Village, a remote community about 300 miles north of Fairbanks and 120 miles above the Arctic Circle.  The descriptor remote only suggests the isolation of this village.  It has been referred to as the single most remote community in the western hemisphere.  The nearest road is 150 miles away.  Everything — people and goods — arrive via airplane.  The map below shows where it is in relation to the rest of the state of Alaska and the Arctic Ocean.

The native Gwich’in people of Arctic Village live in an extreme environment.  This past January (2012) the average daily low temperature was minus 32.8 degrees fahrenheit.  The lowest recorded temperature for the month was minus 54 degrees f.  The lowest recorded temperature that I could find was minus 67 degrees f in January 1993 (and matched in January 1989).  On the other hand, summer temperatures are commonly above 70 degrees fahrenheit and occasionally move into the 80s.  As you will see in the photos that I will post in the coming days, we often hiked in t-shirts.  Other times we wore multiple layers.  The word changeable doesn’t even begin to describe Arctic weather, and we were there in the comfortable month of August.

For this post, I’ll focus on the remoteness and terrain of the arctic and sub-arctic as we flew from Fairbanks to Arctic Village.  The aerial views were unlike anything I had ever seen before.  Some of these photos are from our flight in, and some are from our flight back out at the end of the week.  Nevertheless, the progression of photos below is from south to north (Fairbanks to Arctic Village).

Note:  Taking photos through the plane windows created a somewhat bluish color cast that I had trouble fully eliminating when processing them in the computer.

(Above)  We flew from Fairbanks to Arctic Village in an 8-seat Cessna Grand Caravan 208B.  Much of the interior space was dedicated to supplies being flown into the village.

(Above)  Our pilot — Mick — was a native Alaskan who has probably flown the 600 mile round trip hundreds of times.  At least that was what I was hoping!

(Above)  The view was “expansive” to say the least.  Thousands of square miles of uninhabited land.

(Above) in the flat flood plain areas north of Fairbanks the streams meander crazily.  Spruce trees grew around water sources — including streams and snow-melt lakes that sit on top of the permafrost.

(Above)  Not too far north of Fairbanks we glimpsed the Alaskan pipeline.  Note that part of it is above ground and part is below.

(Above)  The first mountains we came to were (I believe) part of the Yukon-Tanana Uplands area, including the White Mountains and Ray Mountains.  These are low mountain ranges by Alaskan standards.  When framed by high broken clouds however they make for wonderful photography.

(Above)  We crossed the Yukon river north of the mountain ranges.  The Yukon river is roughly the point where we crossed the Arctic Circle.

(Above)  Someone asked me if Arctic Village could be reached by river.  I guess maybe it could — if you want to turn a 300 mile trip into a 1,200 mile trip.  (Note:  The Yukon river basically runs east-west — not north-south — but you get the idea.  The rivers up here don’t run in a straight line.)

(Above)  As we traveled further into the arctic the Brooks Range came into the distant view.

(Above)  The tundra colors intensified as we flew further north.  Many of the lakes that sit on top of the permafrost have noticeably receded over time.  This is due to higher average temperatures in recent years that thaw the permafrost.  As the permafrost thaws, more water is absorbed into the ground.

(Above)  The pilot began a rather steep bank and suddenly Arctic Village appeared below us.

(Above)  Surprisingly colorful homes were an abrupt change after 300 aerial miles of wilderness.

(Above)  The Cessna banked even more steeply and I was only able to capture one reflection-marred photo of the gravel runway . . .

(Above) . . .and suddenly we were on the ground.  A collection of pickup trucks and ATVs — along with soon-to-be new friends — were waiting for us.

(Above)  And that’s where I’ll pick it up on my next post.

Posted September 2, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Travel Photography

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Alaska Trip (Part 5) — Denali, The Mountains   2 comments

I’m an unapologetic fan of mountains.  I love to photograph them, and I somehow manage to climb them (often bent over and gasping for breath).  I especially love to photograph mountains when the light is “special”, whether that means mist and cloud cover, or spotlighted sun.  Denali provided both conditions and some great photo ops.

Our national parks have spectacular mountains.  I’ve photographed and hiked mountains in Yosemite, Olympic, Rainier, Great Smoky Mountains, Badlands, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, and several other parks.  The mountain scenery in Denali is second to none.  And for the lucky few, the big mountain — Mt. McKinley Denali — is at least partially visible about seven or eight days a month in August.  The rest of the time it’s covered in clouds.

We were among the lucky few . . .

(Above)  About a quarter-mile walk from our campground, Melanie sits by the Savage River and writes in her journal.

(Above)  Denali (I prefer the original native name over Mt. McKinley) from 70+ miles away.  It came out for only a few hours on our second-to-last day.  At 20,328 feet it is North America’s highest peak.  Not only tall, it is a massive, massive mountain.

Posted August 28, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Travel Photography

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Alaska Trip (Part 4) — Denali Animals   Leave a comment

After our brief stop at Exit Glacier outside of Seward we hopped back on the bus for the 6+ hour drive back through Anchorage and on to Denali National Park.  There were not a lot of highlights, unless you consider the bus driver pointing out Sarah Palin’s house on the far side of a lake in Wasilla to be a highlight.  (Apparently she now lives almost full time in Phoenix, making it anti-climactic anyway).

Mostly we drove through mile after mile of willow and spruce forests, passing fishing lodges, hunting camps, and the occasional small town.  But we had fun becoming more familiar with others in the group, eating sandwiches on the bus, and catching some Zzzzzz’s.

Denali, as we soon learned, is a national park that is focused to a large extent on the wildlife contained within its borders.  There is certainly no shortage of stunning scenery, but Denali is first and foremost about the animals.  So instead of mixing up a post with anecdotes about camping, hiking, cooking meals, and waking up to 45-degree sink baths, I’ll simply focus on the animals in this post.

First, we learned a lot from the NPS Rangers at Denali:

For example, you never ever run from a grizzly bear.  Why?  Because bears assume that anything that runs away must be tasty.  So  if a grizzly sees you, you are supposed to stand there, wave your arms over your head, speak sweet nothings to it, and wait for it to figure out that you’re not something it wants to eat.  (Nothing on a grizzly’s dinner menu can lift its arms above shoulder height or speak in a human voice.  And everything it eats tries to run away first).  Now if said bear is perturbed for some reason it is likely to charge you.  According to the NPS Ranger , 95% of the time the bear will veer off at the last second (I was beginning to doubt him at this point).  In this case — and if you haven’t dropped dead on the spot — you will now have a wonderful story to relate to your friends when you get back to camp.  In fact, I suggest taking a picture of the charging bear since no one will remotely believe your story.  Supposedly confused by your failure to run away, the bear will now leave you alone (uh-huh).  However, if it doesn’t leave you alone the next step is to drop face down, cover the back of your neck with your hands, and then spread-eagle your legs so the bear can’t flip you over.  (By now I was pretty sure that this ranger — from Pittsburgh of all places — was totally full of it).  But hey, there has never been one single human fatality from a bear attack since Denali was declared to be a national park back in 1917.  On the other hand, some people have been maimed when (you guessed it) they ran away.  So maybe Ranger Pittsburgh knew what he was talking about after all.

Moose, on the other hand, are really ornery and have killed the occasional tourist.  If one of those bad boys charges you, you are being asked to leave its’ territory, and according to Ranger Pittsburgh you should accommodate the request as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, a moose is faster than you.  Actually, it’s faster than Usain Bolt, too.  But the one saving grace is that a moose “has a turning radius of an RV”, quoting our urban east coast ranger.   So you should run like a drunken sailor, get behind a (big enough) tree, and play ring-around-the-rosy until the moose loses interest or one of you drops dead from exhaustion.

That was it.  Nothing else poses much of a threat, unless you decide to chase after a porcupine.  In which case you’ll have a self-proving story that everyone else back at camp will enjoy hearing over and over again.

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Edit:  Unfortunately, our fellow travelers and friends Chris Hoffert and Brian Jackson inform us that a photographer was killed by a grizzly within the past few days — the first person ever killed by a bear in Denali, and something that was brought to my attention after having already written this blog post.  According to the Anchorage Daily News, the hiker / photographer apparently ignored instructions given to all backcountry hikers to immediately leave the area upon coming across a bear.

Photos on the camera and the images’ timestamps showed that White was within 50 yards of the bear for at least eight minutes, without retreating. Permitted backcountry travelers in Denali are required to stay at least a quarter-mile from bears and leave the area if they happen upon one . . .

A very unfortunate (and avoidable) situation.
.

(Above)  Speaking of moose, here are a mother and calf.  Image taken from the safety of the bus that was taking us to our campsite immediately after we arrived.

(Above)  A watchful ground squirrel.  Image taken during one of our hikes along the Savage River.

(Above)  Unfortunately, these little guys occasionally become tasty treats for the grizzlies.  In the arctic we saw several places where the bears simply dug up the underground dens to get an easy ground squirrel meal.

(Above)  Caribou in Denali are protected and showed little fear of the humans running up the slope to photograph them.  Several rangers had to warn people to back off.

(Above)  A recent grizzly paw print next to Melanie’s hiking boot.  There must have been a big bear attached to that paw.  Taken during a four-hour hike along the Savage River.

(Above)  A very young and unconcerned caribou on Mt. Margaret.  The Mt. Margaret hike was pretty aggressive (elevation-wise) and tiring, but well worth it as there were even greater photographic rewards awaiting us at the top.

(Above)  The photographic rewards included these Dall Sheep near the peak of Mt. Margaret.

(Above)  These were a couple of youngsters “play fighting”.  They still rammed into each other with surprising force.

(Above)  The sheep allowed us to get within less than 100 feet.  They probably saw me do a face plant on the tundra after stepping in a ground squirrel hole — I was watching the sheep instead of where I was walking — and rightly concluded that we were no threat to them.  Walking on tundra is like walking on pillows.  It’s exceptionally tiring, but a good place to do a face plant if you’re going to be a klutz.

(Above)  Our group leader, David Radcliff, an accomplished photographer, checks out some of the images he was able to capture.

(Above)  The backdrop for these photos could not have been better.  Well worth the two thousand or so feet we climbed to get up there.

(Above)  Within minutes of leaving the herd of sheep David spotted this ptarmigan in the tundra grass.  Well camouflaged member of the grouse family.

(Above)  A grizzly bear grazes on berries.  They eat upwards of 100,000 berries a day, raking them in by the paw full.  Photo taken from a bus with a 300mm zoom lens and cropped.  Otherwise, this would be way too close.

(Above)  A pair of bears foraging in a berry patch.  Again, image taken from the safety of a bus with a 300mm zoom lens and heavily cropped.

(Above)  Porcupine carcass along the Savage River.  I have no idea of the cause of death, but my research indicates that the only real and consistent predator of porcupines is . . . you guessed it — grizzly bears.

Posted August 26, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Nature and Wildlife, Travel Photography

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Alaska Trip (Part 3) — Glaciers and Orcas   6 comments

Okay, so we’re on “Part 3” and still on the first day.  Sorry about that.  I’ll try to streamline it when we hit Denali.

Anyway, back on the boat . . .

(Above)  Aialik Glacier from . . . a long way off.  The scale in Alaska is so mammoth that I really had a difficult time judging distances.  The trees along the shoreline give you an indication however.

(Above)  Aialik Glacier as our ship closed in.  Still difficult to judge the distance and size.

(Above)  How about adding a boat for some size perspective?  Yep.  That’s a 400 foot high wall of ice, and we were probably still a quarter-mile away from it.

Oh yeah, it sometimes does this (random but pretty cool YouTube video).

(Above)  Some friendly (they’re waving to us) and intrepid kayakers making their way through the floating ice.

(Above)  The blue color of the ice was amazing.  And the ice in the water “fizzed” as oxygen trapped in it for thousands of years was released.

(Above)  As a photographer I really appreciated the subtle lighting and colors, but ice cracked like thunder from time to time.  Enough to make me jump and snap me out of concentrating on photography a few times.

(Above)  Almost all of Alaska’s glaciers are receding as the earth’s climate warms.  We have to solve this fossil fuel thing.  We simply have to.  There’s no other choice.

(Above)  One more shot as we departed for the trip back to Seward.  Even two-level boats look tiny in comparison to Aialik.

(Above)  On the way back we came across a family of Orcas.  I believe the large dorsal fin on this one indicates that this is the primary male of the pod.

(Above)  I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get a bit closer to them, but the captain was (rightfully) cautious of intruding.  I see a 400mm or 500mm lens in my future.  Anyone have a couple thousand dollars to loan me?  :o)

(Above)  I can’t remember the name of these birds.  We had a real birding expert in our group — Paul Brubaker.  I’m sure he could tell us off the top of his head!

(Above)  One more sea lion photo.  This one was obviously looking for attention.  You could hear him/her hundreds of yards away over the noise from the boat engine.

(Above)  About a half hour outside of Seward — as we started our journey to Denali — we stopped off at Exit Glacier.  Here’s your obligatory tourist photo of Bruce and Melanie.

(Above)  People from our group stand near the glacier and give some perspective as to size.  All along the trail up to the glacier were signs showing were the glacier had extended to in past decades.  Again, what is happening to our climate needs to be reversed.

(Above)  Dirty, blue, and beautiful.  No saturation added to the photo.  That’s the actual color my camera captured.

Peace out.

Posted August 23, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Landscapes, Seascapes, Travel Photography, Uncategorized

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