Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Don Sheldon Mountain House

Don Sheldon Mountain House, Alaska Range
Canon 1Ds Mark III, 24-105mm f4L, Panorama stitch of three photos

Don Sheldon Mountain House, Alaska Range
Canon 1Ds Mark III, 24-105mm f4L, 13 sec. @ f/6.3, ISO 800

I just returned from a little photo adventure at the Don Sheldon Mountain House in the Alaska Range. Accesses to this location is by bush plane on skis only and the weather can range from glorious to terrible, in a very short time span. We arrived just two hours prior to a snowstorm of whiteout conditions that dumped about 16 inches of fresh snow across the glaciated landscape. I'll be posting additional comments on the journey soon. Here is a little history on the mountain hut as described by the Talkeetna, Alaska based Alaska Mountaineering School
Don Sheldon constructed the Mountain House in 1966 on a five-acre rock and ice outcrop located at the 6,000 foot level in the middle of the Don Sheldon Amphitheater of the Ruth Gorge, perhaps the most scenic and spectacular spot in Denali National Park & Preserve. A master glacier pilot who was revered by climbers he flew into the Range, Don Sheldon tied lumber to the wing struts of his Cessna 180 and Super Cub and made numerous flights into the Gorge before he had enough materials to build the hut. Intended as a modest shelter for mountaineers, skiers, photographers, and wilderness seekers.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Recent trip to the Brooks Range

Aurora borealis over the Brooks range, arctic Alaska. April 2008

Northern lights over mount Dillon, Brooks range, Alaska. April 2008

I recently returned from the Brooks range where I ventured yet again for some photography of the northern lights. Amidst some very snowy weather, I was fortunate to eek out proper timing that delivered some clear skies. The aurora was not outstanding, but acceptable, and the fresh white snow across the landscape was indeed beautiful. Willow ptarmigan, the white, grouse-like birds, were abundant feeding among the willows. In a few days, I'll be in the heart of the Alaska mountain range seeking the same. Photos will be posted upon my return sometime next week.

Willow ptarmigan in winter plumage

Monday, April 14, 2008

Explore Alaska Lecture Series

On Thursday, April 17th, @ 7:00pm, I'll be giving a presentation on Nature Photography in the Digital Age as part of the "Explore Alaska Lecture Series", sponsored by the Fairbanks branch of the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, located on the corner of 3rd and Cushman Street. I'll be addressing some basic issues including:

  • Why digital is superior to film
  • Image Capture - What you need
  • What is a histogram - That funny graph and what it means
  • Organizing all those photos - Digital Asset Management
  • Editing and Grading - Making the images look good

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Aurora borealis in the White Mountains, Fairbanks

I have long looked for a scene that embodied the mystery of the aurora in conjunction with the simplicity of wilderness living. This cabin, under a sky of wheeling and whirling color, needs little commentary. I accessed this location with a friend, and we both drove snow machines.

While offloading my machine from the trailer, it failed to start. My friend and I removed the exhaust system and began troubleshooting the dilemma in the cold, and an hour later we were fortunately able to start it up. We scurried down the trail, reaching the cabin just before dark.

A little bit of light in the western sky contributes the light blue color in this image. There was no computer color saturation performed on this photo, but colors revealed on film are often different than what the eye actually sees.

Temperatures dipped to minus 18 degrees F that night. This happens to be the first frame I took. While I like many of the other frames, this one, with the lightness of the sky and the purple lights, is my favorite.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mackey's lead dog Zoro

Musher Lance Mackey's lead dog Zoro was injured during the final 20 miles of the All Alaska Sweepstakes race in March of 2008. Zoro, who led Mackey to two Iditarod finishes, was in the sled resting from a sore shoulder when a snow machine rammed into the back of the sled just outside Nome. Lance continued the race and crossed the finish line in Nome with Zoro in the sled, but no attention was drawn to the accident. Lance attended to the fans that awaited his 2:00am arrival. Zoro, was flown to Seattle on the following day and evaluated by veterinarians. He is fortunate to expect a good recovery but will be retired from mushing. You can view a video about Zoro here

Lance Mackey, greeted by his wife and mom, crosses the finish line in Nome with injured dog Zoro in his sled bag.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sepia portraits

During the recent All Alaska Sweepstakes dog mushing race in Nome, Alaska, I took a few portraits that seemed good candidates for a sepia conversion. Not all images work for this color pallete, but I like the sense of time and history invoked by these few. Both Photoshop and Lightroom come with standard conversion parameters for Sepia, but they can be manually performed and tweaked in a variety of ways.

Annie Kirk, in Candle, Alaska, from the village of Buckland, Alaska.

5th place finisher Ed Iten rests on his ski pole at the finish line of the Sweepstakes in Nome, Alaska.

Musher Jim Lanier arrives in Nome, finishing the Sweepstakes in 6th place.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sharpening for printed output

When printing from a digital source, sharpening is required for the most pleasing output. The technique we use may be familiar to anyone who uses Photoshop, but the degree to which we sharpen is often surprising. What you see on the screen is not what you see in printed media.

This is the original file, sized down and sharpened for screen viewing

Here is a 100% crop, unsharpened

Sharpened using Photoshop smart sharpen, 132%, radius 2.0 pixels

The crop sharpened for print output looks oversharpened. It almost looks cut out, with a sort of halo around the edges, when viewed at 100% as shown here. However, all of these artifacts disappear when printed. Part of the reason is most current monitors show around 100 pixels per inch, or ppi. This is like viewing under a 3X magnifying glass compared to printed output.