Alaska was beautiful and rugged.
My photo buddy Paul Bolger was able to come along and we hit the ground running as soon as we arrived. Capturing the Northern Lights was priority number one in Alaska, so we were constantly checking live radar maps and weather reports, chasing the clear skies.
We ended up about a 2 hour drive north of Anchorage on the side of the road when it was finally clear enough to see the lights.
I've never witnessed anything quite like it before. The intensity of the lights changed continuously throughout the show.
Night 1 almost didn't happen. The initial plan wasn't to hit the ground running, but as the trip approached and the forecast looked more and more dismal for clear skies, we made the decision to jet north right away to catch our window. A few hours north of Anchorage, we started to see a brightness on the horizon.
Being so close to a bald eagle in the wild is something I have wanted to do since I was a young boy. At least one road-side eagle practically modeled for me from its perch, turning his head in all different directions and even shaking out its feathers at one point.
It's amazing what you will find in Alaska just off the side of the road.
After driving then sleeping, and driving then sleeping through the wee hours of the night, we woke up just before dawn. The morning fog was thick but interesting, so we made our way up a winding road in search of a good view of the foggy valley. The low clouds moved quickly and by the time we made it to a lookout point, they had all but vanished.
On Day 1 we drove along the Turnigan Arm, a road we would frequent for much of the trip. We stopped at any place that seemed interesting and spent a little while at this waterfall near the road.
One of the biggest challenges for the night photography was finding interesting places to take photos in locations we have never visited in the day time. When all else fails, insert human silhouette, or tree.
The second half of the trip was fairly wet, with a near constant drizzle at most stops. This added to the challenge of any photo, particularly longer exposures. A lot of time was spent wiping off lenses, re-shooting, cupping my hand over the end of the lens to prevent raindrops mid-exposure. You know, the usual.
I've come to the conclusion that Day 1 and 3 were the most action-packed in terms of photo opportunities. We started Day 3 with my cousin Chrisie and her family leading the way, and we didn't get far before stopping for some Dall's Sheep. The two days prior, Paul and I had likely driven back and forth by these sheep and never even thought to look up. They hang out on the nearly vertical face, just off the side of the highway.
The rain was coming down pretty steady, but the camera gear held true.
The area around Virgin Creek falls in Girdwood, Alaska was so damp and green. While we were shooting it was drizzling rain, as it was most of the day, and a lot of the remainder of the trip. On the advice of a passing hiker, we decided to hike above the main waterfall, even though we were wet, cold, and ready for pizza, and we found this little gem.
Everywhere you turn in Alaska, there are snow-capped peaks, tree-lined highways, or lakes and streams, making for beautiful backdrops.. There's really no wrong way to point your camera most of the time.
Day 4 consisted of a lot of driving, trekking around, and searching for bear and moose. A group of bald eagles hanging around this creek made for a nice consolation prize to our failed hunt for other wild things.
It seemed that when there was one, many more would be nearby. While I was photographing one perched eagle, another adult flew in from my right, and then several more immature and adult eagles came and went from the same scene, occasionally calling to one another.
A lot of the process of photography is looking back on shoots and thinking, "I should have got this or that shot." And then you go back out there and hunt for that moment again to get that shot. Rinse and repeat. It's a never-ending process; it keeps us going back for more. Conditions change, seasons changes, tides shift, light moves, it's always different and exciting.
In other words; I want to go back to Alaska.