Young grizzly bear scratches on a balsam poplar tree in Denali National Park. Canon 5D Mark III, 500mm f/4L IS, 1/500 sec @ f/8, ISO 200
The lime green tundra and newly budding leafs of a poplar tree along the Denali Park road are tell-tale signs of spring. This young grizzly bear takes a break from foraging on the new grass shoots and vegetation along the roadside by scratching its back on the bark of a balsam poplar tree on a sunny morning. I had been watching the bear for a while as it napped, ate, and napped some more, until it woke up and sauntered down the park road. When I saw it pause at this tree, I grabbed my 500mm and poked out of my sun roof in time to grab a few frames of the bear scratching, which it did for just a moment. I’ve seen enough bears do this before that when I saw it sniffing the tree I was alert to the chance. Even so, it happens fast and in a perfect world I may have composed slightly differently if I had a bit more time.
At approximately 10:30 in the morning, the sun is already getting pretty bright for photography, but back lighting still works well in this case, and perhaps is the preferred type of lighting given the circumstances.
Wind flower blossoms, Denali National Park, Alaska. Canon 5D Mark III, 500mm f/4L IS, 1/640 @ f/9, ISO 100
It is springtime in Denali National Park, and the remnant covering of snow still remains in the high country and mountain passes. But in typical June fashion, that big and ever present sun has lured many flowering plant into profusion of blossom. This cluster of wind flowers, or narcissus flowered anemones, caught my attention while looking for an object to photograph during a sunny afternoon. The 500mm focal length helps blur out the background as backlighting enhances the flowers petals.
I’ll be in Denali National park in a few days on a photography permit and it was disheartening to learn of the recent trapping death of the alpha female from the Grant Creek wolf pack. She was snared by a trapper just outside the park boundary. I, like many photographers and visitors to Denali have photographed these animals for years, as they have denned near the park road and have been a common sight. The Grant Creek wolf pack is possibly the most visible and highly viewed wild wolf pack in the world.
Why was the wolf snared? Ask the Alaska Board of Game – it has to do, at least in part, with the absence of a buffer zone along the park boundary. Here is a quote from an article in the Anchorage Daily News
“The state-owned areas just outside Denali — and in this case, an area known as Stampede Trail that extends as a finger inside the park — have long been subject to controversy over hunting and trapping because of their proximity to the park, where animals are protected.
Conservationists succeeded in persuading the Alaska Board of Game to establish a no-hunting buffer zone in the region in 2002.
The National Park Service, which had initially been neutral on the issue, decided that wolves at Denali were in enough danger that the agency in 2010 joined conservationists in seeking to extend and even expand the buffer zone. Instead, the Board of Game eliminated the buffer zone, leaving hunters and trappers to operate on state lands up to the boundaries of the park — boundaries that are fairly arbitrary for wildlife moving in and out of the park.
The wolf population in the 6-million-acre park is at a 20-year low — just 70 wolves in nine packs — down from 103 wolves in 15 packs as recently as 2006, Meier said.”
On so many levels, it just makes sense to preserve a resource that is enjoyed by so many people. Wildlife does not know or follow geo-political lines and boundaries. A buffer zone seems reasonable.
Wolves, as a top predator, are a controversial subject in Alaska since they compete with sport hunters and food hunters for animals like moose.
Two years ago, on June 3, 2010, I was photographing in Denali Park with a colleague and we encountered the Grant Creek wolf pack in a rare but classic predator scene involving a cow moose and her calf. The alpha male and female from that pack were involved in this attack, and are pictured in the photos. That post and related photos became my most popular blog entry, and the comments reveal a wide range of attitudes and opinions on even the most basic function of a wild animal: eating to survive. You can read those comments on the original post, but if you just want to see some photos from this scene I repeated them below due to their popularity.
It’s been over a year now since I moved my website from a self-managed software and dedicated server to a cloud-based environment, and for that I chose www.Photoshelter.com. In general, I’m pretty happy with how things have went thus far. It was a big decision because I was giving up some very cool features that I had custom designed on my own website, but I justified that loss by new and more functional features that I would gain through the back-end administration area on Photoshelter. I’m still missing what I gave up, in particular, the functionality of the lightbox. Photoshelter continues to update and add features however, and hopefully some changes are coming to that aspect of the software. One thing is clear to me, I am so glad I’m no longer needing to manage and network with web-geeks more savvy than I to keep the server and software functioning and up to date!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been updating some web pages that showcase my work in a slide show environment. This is more for the casual browser, but it does make navigating through a bunch of categories pretty easy. The one current drawback is that the slide show uses flash, which is not functional on many mobile devices. Perhaps that too will change soon as the web environment seeks to integrate with mobile devices. You can check out the slide shows at http://alaskaphotographics.com/alaska_pictures_index.shtml
Categories of photos on my website that can be viewed in a slide show format
Author Debbie Miller and I were canoe partners on the Nigu, Etivluk and Coleville river trip through the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska.
I’ve been photographing regions of Alaska’s arctic for a book project that came to completion recently. On Arctic Ground is authored by Debbie Miller, a long time Alaskan author, and published by the Mountaineers Books. During two specific trips over the past few years, I photographed regions within the National Petroleum Reserve, a giant section of land in Alaska’s arctic. Both of those trips loom large in my memory for their epic wilderness setting, adventure, and the magical, compressed infusion of life that happens during the arctic’s nightless summer skies.
The book advocates for and showcases the wildlife sensitive habitat regions of this large area. Here is a quote from the feature on Amazon:
Fossilized dinosaur bones. Caribou tracks, both ancient and new. Wide open spaces. Vast migrations… The National Petroleum Reserve Alaska is more than a natural resource it s a place of rare, unprotected beauty. Originally set aside by President Harding in 1923 as a back-up resource for military fuel needs, the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska is home to half a million migrating caribou, countless migrating birds from all over the world, and, surprisingly, one of the largest Polar dinosaur fossil beds in the Arctic. The Reserve is also the largest piece of undisturbed public land in the United States yet few outside of Alaska have ever heard of it.
On Arctic Ground, from Braided River, the conservation imprint of Mountaineers Books, features a series of vignettes written by well-loved Alaskan author Debbie S. Miller (Midnight Wilderness) about the astonishing array of wildlife she has encountered over many seasons exploring the Reserve. Additionally, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt writes the book’s preface, drawing on his years of experience managing both the economic and biological resources of the Reserve.
Miller’s vignettes are accompanied by images from an array of award-winning conservation photographers. The book also features essays and insight from Alaskan writers and science authorities including wildlife biologist Jeff Fair and senior Audubon Alaska scientist John Schoen as well as an essay and audio download by noted Alaska writer and soundscape artist Richard Nelson. Paleontologists Jack Horner and Patrick Druckenmiller share the most recent research and remarkable discoveries associated with dinosaur studies in the Alaskan Arctic.
This book will serve as a platform to bring greater public awareness to the opportunities for permanently preserving the significant biological areas and wildlife that thrive within the Reserve
In previous posts I’ve discussed my experiences in these great locations: the Nigu and Etivluk river and the Utukok Uplands. Below are a few photos that are included in the book
Grizzly bear stands in the midnight sun along Archimedes ridge, Utukok uplands, National Petroleum Reserve Alaska, Arctic, Alaska.
Spring blooming flowers on Puvakrat mountain, National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska.
Hikers along Puvakrat mountain, along the Etivluk river and the Brooks range mountains, National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska.
View of the Nigu river looking south at the Brooks range mountains, Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska.
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