The Nature of Travel
Here is a link to my adventure photography interview done by Candice Andrews for the Adventure collection blog.
If I remember correctly the first bird I could identifying as a child, was the American Robin. Thanks to my grandmother for letting me help her in the garden, starting out my passion as a larval naturalist at only a few years old. The next bird for me to reliably identify must have been a red-winged black bird. Not that it is the most striking bird, more so because it is so aptly named, difficult to confuse with any of the other birds I grew up with. I continue to look forward to their return every spring.
Photographing bears at Brooks falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska
Save weight, space and time!
I have been wanting to write this up for a long time in an effort to make the photography of the brown bears gathered at Brooks Falls more pleasant and efficient for everyone. I have about twenty seasons of visiting and guiding bear photography trips to Brooks Falls to photograph the annual gathering of brown bears, (Ursus arctos). I often get asked about how busy the observation platform gets during the day and what is the best set up for photography. On a busy afternoon when all the bear viewers and photographers are at the falls viewing platform the National Park Service limits the number of people to around forty, with a time limit of an hour. While the viewing area can be pretty packed with photographers and bear watchers, I have found one sure way to make photographing easier, more productive and less frustrating. It all comes down to having a good portable support for the platform. Carrying a tripod back and forth to the viewing area makes a lot of sense until the first time you arrive and it is shoulder to shoulder and you quickly realize that setting up a sturdy tripod is inappropriate and just plain impossible. I suggest to my travelers the combination of using a Bogen Super clamp and hex head plate, (see photos and links below) to match it up to your selection of a tripod head. The set up photographed below utilizes a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball head but any solid head works just fine. I even use a gimbal type head regularly with no difficulty. The clamp quickly anchors right to the railing at the viewing areas and easily comes off to move to another vantage point as you choose to change positions. I also find it much easier to carry the clamp and head instead of a tripod, back and forth from the lodge to the falls along the mile long trail. The moving of people on the platform does introduce some vibration into the system but the same is true of tripods as well. This set up will not only benefit you by eliminating the bumps and and kicks to extended tripod legs but gives everyone at the platform more elbow room. One more thing to note, sharing and cooperation on the platforms goes a long way to ensuring everyone has a positive experience at Brooks Falls. It is important to remember that the bears rely on the resource that these salmon provide and the chance to fish for them for their survival from year to year. Enjoy the photography, the viewing and the learning with quiet respect.
If you meet me out there on the trail, please say hello! I wish you many good days of photography.
"Links for the clamp and plate are provide below"
A good solid mount camera is required to catch the moment a salmon leaps into the mouth of a waiting Brown Bear. Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska
Really Right Stuff Ball head shown with the Bogen Super Clamp set up.
I have been meaning on making a post with a little bit more of a nut and bolt side of photography that might help a few photographer out with photographing bears at the Brooks Falls platforms. Often time I get questions about what gear works best for photographing bears at Brooks Falls.
Aspen and White Spruce in Winter Light, Fairbanks, Alaska 2014
I have been away from here for a while. Not really always away but just during the cold winter months. I can never avoid an Alaskan summer but over the last few years it has been difficult to schedule a winter visit to Fairbanks. A place, I think, that will always feel like home to me. I feel like it is good to return to places that have inspired you in the past, especially after being away for a while. In this case it is the season that is important for my return, my memory and my inspiration.
I gained most of my appreciation for the low angle of winter light while attending university in Alaska. During my time at school I walked across this campus countless times, on most occasions, I would take the time to stop and at least spend a couple of moments appreciating the quality of the changing light. In some ways this is where I really learned to really see colors.
On a recent trip to Fairbanks I took an afternoon to walk around campus. It was winter break and very few people were around, leaving the grounds pretty much open for my exploration. Yes, the the landscape has a few changes. New buildings walkways and roads. Snow covered up most of the subtle aspects of the landscape but I found it easy to step through the memories of my time at the school. It was a cold, clear day in the minus temperatures, like many here this close to the Arctic Circle. I found it easy to just get lost in that old familiar low angle light. I wondered around in it just looking for ways to capture, its hues, its warmth and its shadows. It was so striking to me that I had been away for quite a while and maybe I was here the whole time.
My sixteenth season of guiding polar bear trips to Churchill Manitoba. I can say, no two seasons are the same and it never gets boring. The cold has set in and ice is beginning to form. This mother and cub wait anxiously for good ice to form before they head out onto the Hudson Bay. Ice on the bay means the opportunity to hunt seals and a chance to replenish fat reserves utilized for survival over the ice free summer season. with my seasons now of spending time int he company of such great creatures, I still have no real understanding of how such an animal can cope with the physiological demands of up to five months with out reliable ice for feeding. This time away from food can be up to eight months for females during the season of their pregnancy.