Alaska Winter Bush Plane Glacier Adventure

Knik Glacier Alaska
Ice Columns of the Knik Glacier on an Alaska Winter Bush Plane Glacier Adventure. 
 
This photo is of the huge ice face of the Knik Glacier in Alaska. I was able to photograph this miraculous location due to my good friend Bill Nafus and his amazing new hand built Super Cub bush plane. Bill built the airplane from the ground up and it's perfect in every detail.
 
Our plan was to fly up the Knik River and then back down, not expecting to land. We flew across the face of the glacier, very near the surface below us when I noticed that Bill was throttling back and dragging the huge balloon tires across the snow. He then pushed into the gas and we lifted back up again, circled tight and then returned again to drag the tires through the same grooves made by the first pass. And we lifted off again, circled back and this time we dropped into the tire tracks and stopped.
 
I was stoked. Was this actually happening??
 
Bill and I hopped out of the airplane and we walked out across the snow covered Knik River braided riverbed, not knowing what was under it, testing it along the way. It could be sand, ice, overflow ice or even open water. As we walked we watched for anomalies in the surface that may indicate danger, we got closer to the big ice wall.
 
The light at the glacier was amazing in its smooth even forgiving nature. I was easily able to take the photos by hand without the need of a tripod. This allowed me to be able to keep walking and taking photos as I saw them. It also allowed me to keep walking to keep warm in the -5F cold. The moon would peek out from behind the top of the glacier as i walked. The ice walls were a deep blue and transparent and as shiny as glass with a web of cracks lacing it giving it texture and depth.
 
In about an hour we made our way back to the plane, got back inside and flew back to Bill's home in Palmer.
 
I was so excited! As we flew that day we saw moose, Dahl sheep as well as a Jeep Caravan that had made its way up the frozen river to a spot not far from glacier and was returning back to civilization. We flew above deep blue crevices, ice canyons and ice fields of no less than four glaciers. We flew through and past the jutting granite peaks of the Chugach Mountains.
 
Just the action of taking off from a frozen lake and flying around Alaska is sensational on a bucket list level, but to add the landing at a glacier to the trip made this day one that I will never, ever forget. I can't thank my friend Bill enough. He's a man that makes things happen.
 

I love Alaska, but I love her people even more.

 

Organizing Priorities

Panther Creek Falls Washington

Preparing for a trip, even a simple day trip, should be pretty basic when it come to packing your camera gear, or so it would seem. It’s easy to throw your gear in the backpack, grab it and go.

You must know that photographers take their backpacks pretty serious. For those who aren’t aware, I should explain that a photography backpack is very much like a typical rucksack but they have little padded dividers that are fastened with velcro in an arrangement decided upon by the owner of the backpack to hold their various camera bodies, lenses and other assorted accoutrement. With these dividers it’s easy to take a quick inventory of your gear prior to heading out into the field. Zip open a panel, look inside and zip the panel back up and off you go.

Taking quick inventory in this way is typically pretty straight forward. It’s easy to see if you have your camera and your lenses, but there are always those little details that will trip you up as this little story will show.

After taking my quick inventory on one particular day, I grabbed my gear for a hike to a waterfall that I had been meaning to photograph for a while. The hike was going to be about a five mile trip, ten miles altogether. A good day hike but still a bit more laborious due to my backpack full of gear. It’s usually like me to pull my camera from my backpack at the trailhead and carry it separately and take snaps along the way, but on this day the hike was familiar and I figured that I would just wait until I arrived at the spot that I had in mind. Besides, it would make the hike easier without carrying something in my hands.

I hiked with certain urgency as I was on a mission. I walked the five miles with no break for rest as I knew that where I was going would be a great spot to snack on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the apple that I had brought along with me. How perfect. A beautiful waterfall to photograph and a nice little picnic all at the same time.
After the morning hike I arrived at my destination. The spot that I had in mind for the photograph that I had imagined since my last hike there. I walked to the creekside, peeled off my backpack, set up my tripod, unpacked my camera, set it up on the tripod, turned it on to check my settings. As I look at the digital display, which shows me everything that I need to know to adjust my camera, I notice the available exposure count. It reads 0. Zero??? What?

As I stand there looking at the display the cold realization that I forgot to check that I had put the memory cards back in after I had pulled them out to reformat and clear them to prepare for more photos of this trip. I was literally standing there with a camera without “film” in it. All at once I felt emotions welling up inside. I’m not sure if they were feelings of frustration, anger or dismay or a combination of them all. It really didn’t matter as they weren’t good. I dug through my pack to see if I had stashed a spare card, but found nothing. I felt pretty dumb.

Without much more than a thought or two about what more that I could do, I packed my gear back into the backpack and sat down to eat my sandwich.
As I sat there I lectured myself. I berated myself for forgetting to reinstall the card, and agan for not checking when I packed the backpack, but in time I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to take a single photograph, and that I was in an incredibly amazingly beautiful place in a terrible state of mind and that I just needed to realize how my priorities were out of order.

I had to ask myself how taking the photo became more important than the experience of being there and experiencing the tangible part of the experience that a photo can never capture. At that moment I closed my eyes and paid attention to those non visual components of this beautiful location that make the experience complete. I listened to the water as it tumbled over rocks. I listened to the breeze in the trees above my head. I felt the moss under me. Once I did this I started to pay attention to things that I may have ignored. I heard birds singing and squirrels quarreling. I smelled the fresh fragrance of a forest in the morning. I felt the mist from the falls on my face. I could feel the stress leave as I concentrated. My feeling of frustration changed to resignation and then to a feeling of satisfaction as I realized the complete beauty of my surroundings.

In time I stood back up, grabbed my backpack and started back down the trail with the thought in my mind about lessons learned. Practical thoughts about how to prevent forgetting memory cards or batteries, but even more the thoughts and wonder if I would have taken the time to enjoy the experience of the waterfall if I had remembered to bring them.

To this day when I head out to hike to a waterfall I will check everything, including the details. I haven’t left a card or a battery at home since, but more importantly after this experience the first thing that I do when I arrive at a location is to close my eyes and experience everything that being there has to offer, and I think that it shows through the photos that I take afterward.

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska

The Northern Lights over Anchorage Alaska 9/3/16 - 2:28 am

On this particular night Darlene and I were driving back toward Wasilla through Anchorage when I decided that I wanted to drive up to the Glen Alps to see if we could see the aurora over the city. Darlene wasn't feeling so well but agreed that it would be fun. I was driving and Darlene wasn't paying much attention to where I was driving so I ended up driving to the end of a road that I never intended to drive to. Whatever the road, it had a trailhead and a turnaround, so I turned around, which oriented my windshield directly north toward the lights of Anchorage so I pulled to the side of the road to take some photos. This is the result.

I may have got turned around but I ended up with some pretty cool photos. It's not often that I've seen a nnive aurora over city lights.

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon

The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon.

My friend Matt Payne and I were talking about this photo of The Marquam Bridge Portland Oregon and how it's such a prominent in a sea of city lights, making it an obvious composition for a photographer with an eye for detail. I think that some who have photographed this overpass intersection have done it intentionally due to seeing the photo but others who may not have seen this previously just see it and do it.

I took this photo back in 2011 with my friend Bruce. He had seen this intersection in another photograph, perhaps not this exact composition, and wanted to try to get the shot. I was glad to come along, and am honest that I did not create this comp. I was unaware of it until Bruce talked to me about it.

in 2011 not many had photographed this intentionally but since then I've seen it pop up in a lot of photographer's portfolios, and rightfully so. The photos are certainly striking, especially if you've never seen it before.

I shot this at 300mm from the top of "Pill Hill at the OHSU Tram upper terminal. It was windier than the halls of hell, but it's a great place to view the city.

 

The Eye of The Tempest

Medicine Lodge and Lightning at Simnasho

The eye of the tempest.

This was the lodge that Darlene and I were privileged to have been able to stay in while we visited the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Central Oregon, thanks to my friends Vicky and Charles Littleleaf.

When we arrived to erect the lodge the sun was out and the occasional cloud was a welcomed break from the sunshine. Once the lodge was finished the clouds thickened and a storm of epic proportions moved in on us. Wind, rain and one inch diameter hail fell all while bolts of lightning struck in the hills surrounding us. At one point the lightning was directly overhead but didn't strike the ground around us.

The storm itself lasted well into the night time allowing us the opportunity to photograph it fairly easily. I heard that there were from 1500 to 1700 lighting strikes that night in Warm Springs alone. With the dry weather this could have been disastrous as the fire situation in Central Oregon has been perilous. The good news was that it poured rain. I mean it poured! Of the precipitation I enjoyed the hail the most. I had never seen hail so large. It was easily 1" in diameter. I was caught in it at one point and I can attest to the fact that when a 1" hail stone hits the top of your head it hurts. lol 😀

Later in the day Darlene and I hid inside of the tipi and had some snacks while the storm raged until we realized that the rain had stopped and it was completely quiet outside. Darkness had come while we were dodging the weather and so we didn't realize that the weather had changed in almost an instant. When we peaked our heads outside the lodge door all we saw as a blanket of amazing stars with the Milky Way stretching over the top of us like a crystal archway.

Darlene and I were able to get a couple pretty nice shots of the stars before the clouds moved back in on us signalling to us that it was time for sleep. What an incredible experience.

Vicky felt bad that the weather "ruined" our stay, but I tried to explain just how special it was that it happened. I always look for high adventure but never realized that it would find me on this particular day. I tried my best to explain to them just how special the storm was to me. Charles realized it though. He told Vicky that we were lucky to have experienced it.

I love my life and love the people that are a part of it these days.

Thank you Vicky and Charles.

This is a single exposure of two lighting strikes.

Top Ten of 2017

Panther Creek Falls Washington

This last year for me was a bit of a challenge when it came to photography, but it's been a great year businesswise. The carrot keeps getting a little closer each year. And 2017 was the year that I got married. As bittersweet as it was, I was still able to get out and take a few shots.

2017 was the year that I was repaired from all of the accumulated abuse that I've done to this body in the last few decades. Last December I had back surgery and was laid up longer than I had anticipated. I'm just now starting to realize an improvement in the pain, a year later. Once I was back on my feet from my surgery my mom had her shoulder replaced and no sooner than her shoulder had healed she went in for knee replacement. Because it's just my mom and I these days I am her moral support, and she mine, so I had little time to go and do any shooting this last year. But in 2018 this all will change.

I can't wait to get this year started!! Darlene and I are going to start the year out by heading up to Alasky this month and then a couple more plans for travel that we'll reveal come closer to the day.

And so, in light of all that, here are my favorite ten photos from 2017 in no particular order. I hope that you like them.

I promise to do better in 2018. 😉

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