Alaska – July 2009
Thank you for joining me for this week of amazing photography and great pictures. We had a blast up here in Alaska on our annual Juneau workshop, and are already working on a great new excursion for 2010. We are leaving on a plane today back to Dallas, and I will post once more tomorrow to wrap up the week with some of my favorite images.
For now, let me tell you what we were able to photograph yesterday. We woke early to head out to the trails surrounding the Mendenhall Glacier, because we had seen some bears there a few days back. Upon arriving at a likely spot, we found a sow and her two cubs about 50 feet up in a tree. Now I had seen cubs that high before, but they are light little things. The sow, however, was full grown, and the tree was creaking under her weight.
She however was not concerned in the least. From an outside perspective, this is what was happening. The sow was trying to get her cubs to come down from the tree, and the cubs were having none of that. As soon as she got one onto a lower branch, the other would scamper up right behind and climb higher. About 30 minutes of this, and the sow was getting, like many mothers, frustrated. Finally, after a few growls and swipes with her big paw, she climbed down herself and left the kids to their own devices. Of course, the children quickly followed, and they went off to feed and rest.
Here are some of my favorite shots:
Have a great day, and I will see you tomorrow!
As promised, here are a few more images from our time out at Tracy Arm. One of the things I love is finding the details in nature that create the whole. The patterns, repetitions, and other beautiful designs found in the world are nothing short of astounding. Ever since I have been leading workshops to Alaska, I have fallen in love with the details of icebergs. Here are a few of my favorites from the past couple of days:
And for those of you who have attended some of our many workshops, you may have heard me talk about my love for modern painter Mark Rothko. I am always looking in nature for patterns, striatiations, and layers similar to his stunning canvases:
This whole workshop is a testament to the land in which we photograph, but almost as much, to our captain and guide Jay Beedle. Jay and I have had a wonderful working relationship for many years, and Jay is an accomplished and amazing photographer in his own right. We were lucky enough yesterday to also get to shoot with Jay’s daughter Jayleen, who is one of the most talented young wildlife photographers I have ever met. If you are ever in the Juneau region and what to see this land the way it was meant to be seen, give Jay a call. www.harvandmarvs.com.
On our way back in, we happened to see some great eagles, and whales again bubble net feeding. Here are a few of my favorites.
And finally today, here is the low quality audio sample as promised. What you will hear is cell phone noise, followed by laughing, followed by the whales singing before they launch themselves out of the water and perform the above bubble net feeding. Quite surreal.
That’s it for today. Check back tomorrow for a new post with some notes on recent news (Nikon D300s), possibly an equipment review, and our first post of high definition video. Have a great day!
Yesterday, we left from Auke Bay and headed south over 70 miles to Tracy Arm Fjord, an beautiful glacial fjord carved out of the rock. With breathtaking views, two glaciers at the end, and countless icebergs, this was truly an amazing day. As we approached the mouth of Tracy Arm, we began to see progressively larger pieces of ice. Here was the first real iceberg we saw:
To answer the questions, yes, that is the real color, and the water is that green. These icebergs tower over the boat, and this was just a taste of what was to come. The unique thing about Tracy Arm is that in addition to the icebergs and glaciers, there is also small grottos and coves which have quite the tropical feel. For example:
I can’t remember being in a place so beautiful in a long time. The volume of water coming off these steep cliffs was nothing short of astounding.
As your boat passes through this narrow fjord, and you look up, cliffs rise out of the water thousands of feet straight up. It is truly a sight to behold.
Your additional reward for making it to the end of the 25 mile Tracy Arm is to see one or both of the Twin Saywer Glaciers. There is both a North Sawyer Glacier and a South Sawyer Glacier. Luckily, due to our captains skill, we got to see both glaciers in one day. Here is just a taste of what these beautiful creations look like:
I will have more glacier images in a few days, because one of the only ways to do these justice is in a panoramic image, of which we took many.
Tomorrow we will look at more of Tracy Arm, including the wildlife, more whales, and some details of icebergs that are fascinating. And, as promised, I will attach an audio file of whales singing before bubble net feeding if I happened to see it again, and, by chance, we did! See you tomorrow!
Yesterday, we took to the sea for the first time, in search of whales. We expected to see a few, possibly orca’s, but almost certainly humpbacks. The summer days up here are long (18+ hours of sunlight) so the plankton which feeds the krill is plentiful. This in turn feeds the humpback, who, although they weigh in the neighborhood of 60,000 – 80,000 pounds, feeds almost entirely on the tiny krill. In fact, according to Jay Beedle, our extraordinary captain, Humpbacks can choke if they get a bird caught in their throat!
As we left Auke Bay Harbor, we started to see our first whales. It was a transient pod of orcas with a baby in tow. Up in these parts, there is only about a 20% probability that you will see an orca, and our day was just beginning. Throughout the day, however, we were plagued with fog, rain, and clouds, though the weather is expected to break today. Up first, the orcas (baby is in front) :
Next, we steamed to Pt. Adolphus. Over the course of the next 10 hours we saw over 40 humpback whales doing all sorts of amazing things. Pt. Adolphus is right near the entrance to Glacier Bay near the town of Gustavus. Pt. Adolphus is widely considered one of the most dynamic and active places for humpback viewing in the world. Expect more pictures at a future time, but here is one of many images taken up by Pt. Adolphus:
The awe of having up to 40 of these amazing animals around you breathing, diving, and just existing is truly amazing. But the best was yet to come. After a great day up at Pt. Adolphus, where the weather was uncooperative, we headed back to the Juneau area. It was here that I saw a whale behavior I had never seen before. Bubble Net Feeding is a type of maneuver where multiple whales, and in our case five or six, dive deep, send up a ring of bubbles to trap their food, and shoot to the surface of the water, mouths open, and fly out of the water to eat. It is a cooperative feeding skill that has some amazing hallmarks. The first telltale sign of this activity is the presence of seagulls, they will circle around the site, and when they dive to the water surface — you better be ready to shoot, because it happens so fast. A more subtle clue, though, came from our captain Jay Beedle. He dropped a hydrophone into the water, and right before the whales came shooting out, we heard the most otherworldly song. To me, it was haunting and beautiful. Each time before they came up, one whale would “sing.” If we hear it again, I will get some audio for you. Here is one image from many from our time with this feeding group:
It was an amazing first day of shooting, and I can’t wait to show you more. Today, we head to Tracy Arm Fjord and hopefully all the way to the South Sawyer Glacier, check back tomorrow for more new information and images. Thanks!
As a photographic workshop leader, I am often asked the questions, “What’s In Your Camera Bag?” Normally, I carry the same gear as many of you, a camera, a few lenses, a tripod, etc., but for this workshop, we have some unique tools to make our job even better.
I am using the Think Tank Photo “Airport International” as our bag of choice for navigating the maze of airports that we needed to use to get up to Alaska. This rolling bag is a perfect fit for overhead compartments, and is durable enough for our time out in the field.
The other bag I am using is new for this adventure, and is made by Gura Gear, a new company that creates bags primarily for safari. The only bag they make is the Kiboko. So far, I can say that I just love this bag. It has a wonderful harness system, and can hold my massive Nikon 200-400 zoom with a D3X body attached. Expect a further post with reviews of these two great carrying systems.
So here is what we are using for our time in Alaska.
Lexar Compact Flash Cards
Gitzo 1348 Carbon Fiber Tripod
…and a few other accessories
But we are also, for the first time, shooting High Defenition Video from the workshop. For this we have in our video bag:
Panasonic HVX-200 HD Camera
P2 Cards (for tapeless HD workflow)
Senheiser G2 Evolution Wireless Microphone
Ken-Labs Gyroscope for Stability (This unique device helps to stabilize images shot from a boat, look for a future review in a blog post)
If you have any questions about the gear or equipment we have with us here in Alaska, let me know in the comments. Check back tomorrow for an update from our first full day of shooting as well as our first in-depth review of some of the amazing equipment we are using during this workshop. Thanks!
– Tom Maddrey
We are up here in Juneau, AK getting ready to lead an amazing five day workshop in and around the Inside Passage. For this workshop, we have the pleasure of working with Jay Beedle, owner of Harv and Marv’s Outback Alaska as our personal guide and captain during our time here. All this week, we will be posting video and still images from our time during this workshop, and we hope to see your comments below. Check back every evening for new images, videos, and stories from Alaska, and be sure to read all the other posts to learn how you can become a fan of ours on Facebook. Thanks!
- Tom Maddrey
For many photographers, myself included, Alaska is the premier destination for photographing nature and wildlife in North America. I have been thrilled to visit and lead workshops to Alaska for many years, and once again, we are taking an amazing trip to Juneau, Alaska to photograph whales, eagles, icebergs, glaciers, and so much more. Follow our blog beginning July 26.
If you are ready for intense exposure at shutter speed, visit us online at eclipseinstitute.com. All courses are streamed online in high-def video, taught by notable professionals, and include interactive instructor feedback.