Bear power

BE9147 Brown Bear plow

BE9147 Brown Bear freighter

What??!!  A week has gone by and I haven’t posted about any bears?  :-)   Well, this post certainly breaks that bad streak.   Of course I am still editing and processing images from Alaska.   This particular image has a lot of qualities that I like about it.

  • Perspective – although I was not in the river with this bear, but on a small bluff outcropping into the river – it certainly looks that way.
  • Power - Have you ever seen the way water builds up in the front of a freighter when it is moving against the current?  The water build up in front of the bear reminded me of that here, showing the raw power of these animals moving against a fast moving river in search of salmon.
  • No #^$%@$! seagulls!  Ok, only distant blurs in the background.  :-)
  • Palette – I happen to like the color palette in general.   The blues are somewhat tranquil.   The gold of the grasses are complimentary.  Wait, I think I just wrote about complimentary colors!

This image was captured using a Nikon D700, 200-400 f4 lens, ISO 1250 at Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park, Alaska.  Post processing by Lightroom 2, Photoshop CS3 using luminosity masks and Topaz Detail.   Topaz Detail just released their 1.1 update which works much faster and addresses one of my complaints in my previous review.

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Complimentary colors

Complimentary Colors

Complimentary Colors

This is one from the archives – a leaf photographed by the side of river at Bridal Veil falls in Tinker’s Creek Gorge in Ohio.    This is a pretty cool area to work in because the shale creates all sorts of interesting lines, shapes, and surfaces.    The bigger bonus was having some blue sky reflecting in the water to act as a complimentary color to this leaf.

Complimentary colors to me are a bonus find in nature.   They create a special dynamic relationship in an image.   My eyes wander back and forth between the leaf and the blue reflecting water – almost as if there was an attracting and opposing force between the two like magnets.   The lines of the shale help contribute to that dynamic.

I plead guilty to not being very systematic about how I tag my posts – haphazard would be a a more fitting term.   I am trying to do better! :-)   I have now created a post tag called “artist favorites.”   This tag will link you to some of my favorite posted images over the last year.  Eventually I will spend time to go back further and tag those.  I encourage you to check it out and see if you missed something.

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Often Nature is enough

Fall Aspens in Denali

Fall Aspens in Denali

It is somewhat ironic that I am writing this post as a following to my last one that reviewed a Photoshop plugin, but I think there are some important points to be made .    It seems every year we have new terms to add to the modern photography dictionary.   It seems every year there is a new software upgrade or new tools available that want to convince us that our photography will be so much better for it.   New printers, new pixels, new lenses, etc, etc.    The newest widget isn’t new to photography doing digital.   Film fads, newer, mo’ betta lenses, tripods, papers, etc., have been evolving for a long, long time.

With digital however, tools evolve much more rapidly, and certainly the internet contributes to the communication.   I am just as guilty as the next person to be sucked into some of it, or at the very least, want to try it for myself.   Photographers, after all, tend to love gear and we all want the best image quality we can obtain. (more…)

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Topaz Detail

Lounging at the sandbar

Lounging at the sandbar

I previously wrote about a nice Photoshop plugin from Topaz Labs called Topaz Adjust in these posts.   It remains one of those plugins that I tend to use as a playground to explore possibilities.  Sometimes it works for a particular image, sometimes I don’t care for the effects for that particular shot.     It’s a tool like anything else.    I have now had the opportunity to work on a few of my Alaska bear images with one of their newer plugins called Topaz Detail. (more…)

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Shelikof Double occupancy

Shelikof rock island

Shelikof rock island

The waterway that separates Kodiak Island, Alaska from the Alaskan peninsula and Katmai National Park is called the Shelikof Strait.   Our captain during our bear trip indicated it has a nasty reputation for some very serious storms.  Thirty foot seas are not uncommon and crossings are often limited to the good days.    In calmer waters, it is about a 4 hour crossing from Kodiak Island to Katmai, which is why so many travel by float plane.
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The mountain will always be

Mt. McKinley

Mt. McKinley

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail. – John Muir, Our National Parks, 1901

I read this quote from Muir recently and was thinking about the cleansing one gets from fresh air, wilderness, and simply being in nature.   Then I thought, what if the quote were reversed?  From nature’s perspective, the energy and cleansing would not be in enjoying the company of human beings, but probably to be rid of us all together.   As I stare at this image of Mt. McKinley, so majestic and grand, I feel quite insignificant.   This mountain doesn’t need me, or does any place like it – from the forests to the streams to the ocean.   They don’t need my appreciation of their beauty or for anyone to photograph them.    Such trivial things only become important in trying to protect what we do not want to destroy.

Even if we were to obliterate ourselves, and wreak havoc on our environment, I have a feeling this mountain would still be there.

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Submerged Grizzly bear

Before my trip to Alaska, I made a post about some photos I had hoped to obtain.   They weren’t really based upon anything other than my imagination running wild.  I had never been there before, so they weren’t based on much education about the place either, what opportunities I could expect, environments, etc.  For some images it ran a bit wilder than others.   When you are actually there, you begin to match up your imagination vs. reality.    It certainly looked like my dual-submerged-bear-one-with-a-fish shot was going to be quite a challenge.  :)

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

In a place like Katmai, I think it helps to have some specific ideas in the back of your mind because it can be just so overwhelming at times. You are just shooting everywhere when there is a lot of action.   For the most part, you are reacting to the situations that the bears offer to you.  You don’t have much control over the situation other than being in the right spot at the right time, and perhaps having something in your mind you wish to accomplish.

Watching their different behaviors was a complete blast, particularly in how they go about fishing.   Some would jump and plunge on top of salmon.   I wondered how this 1,500 lb animal could jump on top of something that is perhaps 5 lbs and not bring up a salmon mush pie.   And if they wandered close, certainly your brain begins to contemplate a Mark-mush-pie possibility as well.    Some of them where quite skilled at swatting with those big claws, and others submarined under the river surface and came up with a fish.   There were even some lazy ones who would just mooch off of others.  Each with their own preference , technique and skill.

Well, it is probably obvious that this particular bear did some submarining.   I was lucky to get this shot with my macro lens.     Ha – just kidding folks – if I only had a web cam on this site to capture your expression after reading that sentence.   It was shot with my D700, 200-400 zoom and my 1.4 teleconverter on – 550 mm total.   But the shot is full frame, no cropping.   It was also an instance of being luckily in the right spot.  Moving around a lot to “get in position” is not a good idea.  It spooks the bears, making them more nervous, interrupting their normal behavior.  So you pick a spot, sit, be patient and wait.  You quickly learned if you were not in the right spot for a certain situation, sooner or later your time would come.

So the reality of my imaginary shot is probably this:   In order to have two bears this close in the water, it probably would have to be a mother and a cub.   It didn’t seem likely that two adults would be feeding that close to each other without one getting wacked with a salmon across the face or worse.   In order to have the bears submerged like I drew them – the water would have to be so deep for the adult that the cub would need to be standing on a rock, drop off ledge, or something similar.   Although my imagination told me it was a pretty far fetched concept, logic should have told me – “yeah right.”   Nonetheless, I did come back with a few drippy water, submerged shots I am happy with.  Sometimes you just have to settle. ;)

See more bear photos in my gallery.

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Mount McKinley (Denali)

Mount Denali

Mount Denali

With only 2.5 days around Denali, I suppose I had to be prepared for never actually seeing the highest point in North America.   Cloud cover, rain and fog were all my enemies of getting a peek.    This is one morning from within Denali National Park, with a clear view and some nice morning light shining on Mount McKinley (Denali).  Talk about luck.

This photograph is not a blend of exposures, nor was I able to use a graduated neutral density filter on my 200-400 zoom lens.   I used the graduated density tool in Lightroom 2 to address the brightness of the sky and to bring out detail in the mountain.  I then used another at the bottom to balance the exposure of the foreground with the back.   Just another set of tools to rely upon in realizing possibilities.  The image was finally brought into Photoshop for slight adjustments with luminosity masks.

As I learned a bit more about this mountain, I read that a record setting windchill of -118.1 deg F was recorded by an automated weather station located around 19,000 feet.   This was only with a “gentle breeze” of 18.4 mph.   Temperatures can plummet below -95 deg F according to the park service literature.   Storm gusts of 150 mph.  Hmmm – need a few more layers to brave that one.

Denali is also featured in this past week’s excellent series on PBS by filmmaker Ken Burns : The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.   Some of you have mentioned watching it in previous comments.   They now have video clips online which provide a better look at the history of this majestic feature of North America, the surrounding National Park, and its wildlife.   The entire series is very well done, and an excellent education about our park system.

Denali’s First Climbers

Adolph Murie and the Story of Wolves in the Parks

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