Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Your Favorite Place to Photograph in Alaska?

I’m often asked this question, but find it very difficult to answer. Part of Alaska’s lure and fascination to me is found in its tremendous diversity of environment. Sampling from one makes the others uniqueness more prominent. I like winter because of summer and I like summer in part, because of winter. Change and diversity really make travel across this landscape both distinctive and remarkable. Then there is the equation of wildlife, which is quite different in the arctic than in southeast Alaska’s marine waters, both of which are astonishing in their own right. So as unsatisfying as it seems to not “name” a particular spot or location, Alaska’s collective spaces win me over. I was raised in the Midwest and became addicted to wide open spaces very young. I like the ability to see for long distances and across great vistas. Alaska feeds this addiction well.

Often a given location is great for one particular subject, but has a few drawbacks in other ways. For example, Katmai National Park at Brooks Falls is an amazing place for brown bear photography, but for this very reason, there are lots of people there. Dealing with groups of people can far more difficult than dealing with the bears!

So instead of naming a favorite, I’ll list a few places that I enjoy photographing—mainly from a photographic perspective, not necessarily the pure nature experience or absence of people. They are not secret spots in any measure, rather well known really, but they are that for a reason indeed.

Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park:
I like the topographical relief of this area , the nearby mountains, the aqua blue water of Naknek lake, the orientation of the sunrise, the diversity of wildlife, and yes, of course the amazing congregations of brown bears.

Sunrise over Naknek Lake and the Brooks river

Brown bear peers through grasses, Katmai National Park

Prince William Sound
The long fjords choked in lush green hillsides are fantastic in this sheltered waterway of southcentral Alaska. Glaciers are thick and active, dumping huge icebergs into the sea. The weather can be wet, but not as severe as southeast Alaska. Its coastal landscapes and wildflower meadows are amazing. The bird life, marine wildlife, and the interface of human participation through kayaking and/or maritime industry make it intriguing. It’s growing in popularity and number of visitors, in a large part, due to the road opened through the tunnel to Whittier.

Lupine and floating icebergs, northern Prince William Sound

Harbor seals hauled out on icebergs

The Brooks Range:
This is a massive region. It is extreme, austere, beautiful and rugged. Far less populated than the other areas mentioned above, it is equally more difficult to access. But the landscapes fascinate me, the rugged mountains, the infusion of light in the summer (and mosquitoes!!). I hope to do more work in this area over the next few years.

Fresh snowfall on mountains, Brooks range.

Caribou migrate through the snow in the Brooks range

Denali National Park:
While I often go to Denali Park with mixed feelings—there are soooooo many people to contend with along the road corridor—it does remain a very productive and beautiful place to photograph. The road moves through four different mountain passes, which parallel rivers with grand vistas--all in just 90 miles! I know of no other road system in the state with this diversity in such a short distance. The wildlife is abundant, relatively speaking, and diverse as well. It is also one of the few places to effectively and safely photograph interior grizzly bears—presuming one has a professional photographer’s permit which allows the luxury of traveling the park road in your own vehicle.

Sunrise over dwarf birch, Cathedral mountains, Denali National Park

Caribou on mountain ridge, Denali National Park


Stephen Cysewski said...

The Hatcher Pass area outside of Palmer. The geology is amazing. I love to hike in the valleys overlooking Independence Mine.

Patrick said...

That region is amazingly green in the summer and full of wildflowers too. Its a great spot for sure.

Roy Mangersnes said...

I was asked the same question by BBC Wildlife magazine, only they wanted to know my favorite place to photograph in the world. Now they just published a top 20 list of the world after asking 300 professional naturalist. My suggestion, salmon run at Brooks Falls, ended at 10th.


Patrick said...

Glad to hear Alaska made it as your top choice--that's pretty remarkable considering all the place out there. Do you have a link to the top 20 places, I'm curious to see what they were.

Roy Mangersnes said...

Sorry Patrick this is all I could find

Seems you have to get yourself a copy. I could tell you that Antarctic Penguins (were I just was) came in as runner-up while the Great Wilderbeast migration (were I'm going in September) was the top destination. Alaska had Caribou migration (20th), Katmai Bears (10th) and Humpback Whales (6th). Well done!


Patrick said...

Yes, subscription time :-)

I was in Tanzania years ago for the Wildebeest Migration, and it was impressive, although some areas would be more optimal. Where are you going? I think regions with more topographical relief, like Kenya, would be preferred. It is very hard to get both composition and perspective without elevation--and that is hard to come by on the great Savannah of Tanzania.

Roy Mangersnes said...

I am going to Kenya. Included Masai Mara and Amboseli national parks. I'll have that in mind, elevation, when I go. I can see what you mean regarding perspective. I spend a lot of time on my stomach, but every now and then I get up and realize I need to take my pictures all over again :-)


zu said...

I love the sunrise shot and the sky... Its amazing.