Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Eyes Wide Open - Where's The Bear?


Spoiler alert - there is no bear! This was shot on my recent brown bears trip in Alaska. We were on the mud flats watching the bears frolic and dig for clams. When we turned around to change our vantage point, we were greeted with this beautiful abstract design of sand and shallow water.

Wherever you are, whatever you are photographing, there is often much more than you anticipated. It is important to keep your eyes wide open to all possibilities, even if your main mission is particular wildlife, a special landscape, or anything else. When I am out shooting I am a firm believer in being an opportunist. I always try to be open to any and all photographic opportunities, whenever and however they present themselves.

This image was optimized in Lightroom. I deepened the blue of the water to create more contrast between it and the silvery sand. It was a sunny day, but even in bright overhead light this scene had a wonderful 3-dimensional quality and a great deal of texture.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec., f/10, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Your big opportunity may be right where you are now."  -- Napoleon Hill 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Bear Facts


Bears, bears, and more bears! For the third year in a row, we have traveled to the best and one of the safest locations to see and photograph brown bears in Alaska. We saw many mothers and cubs, a few males, wildflowers, had great weather, great food and great accommodations. What more could you ask for?

The 2018 trip has already been scheduled for July 13 - 19, 2018. We travel by small plane to Lake Clark National Park, about a one-hour flight from Anchorage. We will see newborn cubs, frolicking and sparring teenagers, wildflowers, and maybe even puffins.

The trip is not yet listed on our website, so please email me at awakethelight@charter.net for more information. Limited to only 8 participants, this trip will fill quickly. Let me know if you are interested.

TECHNICAL DATA
All images f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If people were superior to animals, they'd take better care of the world."  --Winnie The Pooh


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Wild Alaska Postcard


I head back to the East Coast today after almost a month in glorious Alaska. All I can say is WOW! Between the brown bears trip, followed by the yacht cruise in the Inside Passage, it was all I had planned for and more. Everyone on each trip got superb images and had a blast. Many want to return next year for either one or both trips.

Today's blog is another postcard from images captured on the private yacht cruise. Starting at the top, this is a sunset view of snow covered mountains taken at one of our overnight harbor locations (each evening our captain moored us in calm protected inlets). The eagle was fishing and this was taken just after he snagged a herring (click on the image to see the entire postcard in a larger view). Next to the eagle is a shot of our Zodiac shuttling us to shore where we were surrounded by beautiful icebergs with abstract shapes and intense color. Having the Zodiac available allowed us to get images that most other photographers never have the opportunity to get.

The breaching whale was a real treat to see. The whale was quite exuberant and breached multiple times. He also did a lot of "chin slapping" so he made a lot of loud noise for quite some time. One of the benefits of this sort of trip is that there is no time limit - when we came upon something photogenic we stayed as long as we wanted. Pure paradise for a photographer!

The two seals were a real treat - the baby had just been born and if you look closely you can see the umbilical cord still attached. It was wonderful to see new life just appearing. And finally, the whale tail shot is actually two whales side by side, one blowing and one diving. We saw dozens of whales, more than I had ever seen before.

So, two wonderfully successful photo trips have come to an end.  What an amazing time it has been! We all have memories that will last a lifetime. Applications are now being taken for next year's private yacht cruise. Dates are still to be determined but it will be in late June / early July 2018. There is already a sizeable list of interested photographers, so if you are interested, please contact me as soon as possible and I can provide details.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The quicker we humans learn that saving open space and wildlife is critical to our welfare and quality of life, maybe we'll start thinking of doing something about it."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy July 4th from Alaska!


Happy July 4th from Petersburg Alaska! The last of my group is here celebrating a truly small town holiday. The town puts on some fun games for kids and adults, a parade, a log rolling competition, rowboat races, and many more entertaining events.

Thanks to group member Cindy McCaffrey for capturing this image at the Salty Pantry restaurant at the harbor in town. The food is superb and the staff very friendly. Doesn't get any better than that!

My nearly one month in Alaska is coming to an end and it was filled with incredible photographic opportunities, great camaraderie with wonderful people, and one adventure after another. I can't wait to return!

TODAY'S QUOTE: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."  --Nelson Mandela

Monday, July 3, 2017

Alaska Postcard


I have just returned from an incredible week aboard a private yacht for a photo tour of Alaska's Inside Passage. The seven participants traveling with me were treated to some of the finest photographic opportunities Alaska has to offer. All of us were blown away by the superb things we were able to observe and photograph during our week on the water.

We photographed cavorting whales, swooping eagles, pristine icebergs, a world class sunset, sea otters, sea lions, seals, a variety of birds, and so much more. On several days we took our zodiac skiff to nearby islands with ancient moss covered trails flanked by huge trees, or icebergs on the beach. We had complete flexibility since the boat was chartered just for us. Our captain was an experienced naturalist who has traveled these waters for over 40 years. He knew exactly where to go to get us the image opportunities we wanted.

As if that weren't enough, we had a world-class chef who prepared all our meals, and a ship's mate who did the lion's share of taking care of our quarters, shuttling us to shore, and a myriad of other duties. It was a great crew, and we were treated like good friends which for me is the best way to travel.

I plan to return next summer to do the same trip. Stay tuned for dates. It will fill very quickly.

TECHNICAL DATA
Eagle  -  1/6400 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 280mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.
Sunset  -  1/80 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.
Iceberg  -  1/1600 sec at f/9, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4 extender set at 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.
Whale  -  1/2000 sec. at f/10, ISO 800.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is nothing  -  absolutely nothing  -  half so much worth doing as simply messing about in ships."  -- from "Wind In The Willows" by Kenneth Grahame

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dueling Duo


Grizzly bears. In the wild. Up close and personal. It doesn't get much better than this. These two siblings were mock-fighting for over an hour. What a treat and a privilege to see this action. Real and raw.

The Alaska brown bears trip last week in Lake Clark National Park provided my entire group a wide variety of superb photographic opportunities. Being able to see wild animals live their lives as they have for eons is so much different from seeing animals in a zoo or in a TV documentary. Being with them, seeing what they have to do to survive and thrive, and watching the young ones learning how to become healthy adults, ties us all to the web of life. We get so wrapped up in our daily lives in civilized society with our creature comforts,  essentially unconnected with the natural world. Having the opportunity to observe and photograph wildlife in their natural setting is an experience everyone interested in wildlife and nature should experience at least once in their lives. It helps put life on our planet and our own personal lives into a much different perspective. It is a life-changing experience.

The next Alaska brown bears trip has been scheduled for July 13 - 19, 2018. I am still traveling in Alaska, but if you would like more information, or would like to be placed on the "Interested List" please email me at awakethelight@charter.net   I will get in touch with you when I return to my office in mid-July.

TECHNICAL DATA
1/1000 sec., f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 390mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."  --Chief Seattle

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Puffin Postcard


I am breaking tradition today by showcasing a composite of 3 images for today's blog. While on the brown bears photo tour, we took a side trip to a nearby island to photograph puffins who had just returned for nest building and breeding. Puffins live most of their lives at sea, and only come on land to breed in the summer. They choose isolated rocky locations with few predators and protected nesting burrows in the rocks.

For me, this was a decades-long dream fulfilled. I had wanted to be up close and personal to puffins for years, and I finally got the chance. I can't begin to describe the thrill of being so close to these birds and being able to photograph them while they went about their daily lives. This is what nature and wildlife photography is all about  -  observing nature's creatures continuing along the path of life.

Of course there are frustrations as well. Puffins are very speedy fliers and photographing them in flight was challenging to say the least. A very fast shutter speed is needed, generally a minimum of 1/1250 sec. and higher. And finding these speeding bullets in the frame is a challenge as well. Continuous shooting, and many missed shots was the order of the day. But thankfully there were enough sharp images with good lighting and wings in good positions to make me happy.

TECHNICAL DATA
1/1250 sec., f/8, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 300mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What you do not see, do not hear, do not experience, you will never really know."  --native Alaskan Anders Apassingok of the St. Lawrence Island Yupik

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Three Bears


The Alaska brown bears trip ended today, and what a week we had! The weather was perfect, the lodge was a wonderful place to stay with lovely rooms, great meals and a superb guide, and the bears were perfection itself. We saw moms and cubs, adult males, dueling teenagers, nursing babies, wildflowers, and puffins. It doesn't get any better than that!

This threesome was curious but not about us. There was an adult male in the area and that usually puts moms on high alert. In this location we are able to get fairly close to the bears safely. Safety is always the main concern, and these bears, although wild, are so used to seeing photographers with cameras, tripods, and ATVs that they barely pay any attention to us. We are always careful to keep our distance, not crowd them, and not block their access to feeding areas or water.

This is my third trip to this part of Alaska, Lake Clark National Park. It is about a one-hour small plane ride from Anchorage. In my opinion it is far and away the best place to view and photograph brown bears safely. I love it so much that I am already planning next summer's trip. It will run from  July 13 - 19. If you are interested, please let me know as soon as possible. This trip typically fills quickly, and it has not been officially advertised yet, so information is not on the website. Email me for details at awakethelight@charter.net

TECHNICAL DATA
1/1000 sec.,  f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Nothing exists for itself alone, but only in relation to other forms of life."  --Charles Darwin

Monday, June 12, 2017

Alaska - The Last Frontier


Flew into Anchorage, Alaska last night and was greeted by this beautiful scene. Craggy mountains peaking out over smooth white clouds. What a feast for the eyes. This was shot with an iPhone6 so the resolution is not the best, but I wanted to share it with you.

Alaska is one of my favorite places. The wildness, the variety of wildlife both on land and in the water, the crisp cool air even in June, the friendly people, and the general feel of the place have mesmerized me and I keep coming back for more.

This time I am here for two different photo tours. The first one, starting on Tuesday, is to photograph grizzly bears in their natural habitat in Lake Clark National Park. While the bears are wild, we live in relative comfort. We stay in a lovely privately-owned lodge along the shores of the Cook Inlet at the border of the national park (about a one-hour flight from Anchorage by small bush plane). The lodge has a wonderful chef to prepare all our meals, and we have our own guide and driver. Our lodge is in the middle of bear country, and the bears often roam through the grounds. The lodge is only a few hundred yards from the water's edge, and we and all our gear are transported by ATV to where the bears are each day. The bears are truly wild, but are acclimated to humans. We practice serious bear safety nevertheless. The bears are in charge and we move as needed to maintain a safe distance from them. When photographing wildlife you always want to remain a safe distance away and do nothing to frighten them, or disturb their feeding or their parenting. Doing so can put you in danger quickly.

The other photo tour, starting toward the end of the month, is an 8-day boat-based trip to photograph whales, sea otters, puffins and other sea life. The entire boat has been chartered for just our group, and it is a beautiful boat. It has teak wood interiors, double occupancy staterooms with private bath, top-of-the-line stabilizers for smooth sailing, and superb creature comforts. It sleeps only 8 passengers, plus a crew of 3. The boat will transport us to where the action is best, and we can shoot as long as the action is good. We will also be going out on Zodiacs and sea kayaks to get closer shots.

So this will be a very exciting time for me and for those participating in each of the trips. Will keep you posted as internet access allows.

TECHNICAL DATA
1/6400 sec., f/2.2, ISO 32. iPhone6 camera with 4.15mm f/2.2 lens. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We live in a wonderful world full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."  --Jawaharial Nehru

Friday, June 9, 2017

Catch Me If You Can

Before the Action


Peak of the Action

Bird photography can be very challenging. Most birds are beautiful, like this Skimmer, but often they move like the wind and it can be difficult to get the focus just right AND capture the action.

Skimmers generally make multiple passes over the same section of water, skimming the surface (hence their name) in search of food. Because they will repeat their actions in more or less the same place, after a few passes you can begin to predict their route and can pre-focus to be ready when they move into view.

Originally I was only going to post the Peak of the Action image, but thought that perhaps it would be hard to see and understand exactly what was going on. So the Before the Action image, taken just before the skimmer spotted a fish and tucked his head under to grab it, shows the normal position of the bird as it skims over the water.

To get successful images of birds in flight, it is important to use two techniques  -  rapid burst in order to fire your shutter in rapid succession, AND Continuous (Nikon) or AI Servo (Canon) to allow your camera to continuously focus on the bird as it moves. Employing both those camera settings will help maximize your chances of getting good shots.

TECHNICAL DATA
1/2000 sec., f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4x extender set at 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."  Henry Van Dyke