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Landscape of waves washing up along the sandy beach of Katmai National Park, Aleutian mountain range, Alaska Peninsula, southwest Alaska. Canon 5 D Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8L, (16mm) 0.8 sec @ f/18, ISO 100 (Neutral Density filter used to slow the shutter speed)

The coastal landscapes along Katmai National Park look out towards the Shelikof Strait, a tumultuous body of water that passes between the Island of Kodiak and the mainland Alaska Peninsula. While camped along this beach, above the storm berm, the rare sight of blue sky during my trip inspired me to run to the shore to make a landscape. In order to help create the sense of movement along the shore by the pulsating waves washing across the sandy surface, I used a graduated neutral density filter to slow the shutter speed enough for a gentle blur. The hard packed sand was smooth enough to provide a reflective surface transferring some of the cloud patterns onto the beach. Just enough of the sun’s afterglow was visible to create a faint color. I exposed for the highlights and then boosted the shadows to balance the tonality.

Here is a horizontal of the same scene. I like them both equally and it is helpful to have both options for publication needs.

Landscape of waves washing up along the sandy beach of Katmai National Park, Aleutian mountain range, Alaska Peninsula, southwest Alaska.

Vibrant field of lupine wildflowers along the coast of Katmai National Park, Alaska Peninsula. Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS (24mm), 1/80 sec @ f/16, ISO 200

Describing the infusion of color found in Alaska’s summer fields of wildflowers requires a word not found in the English dictionary. There is a powerful feeling that emanate from these intense swaths of color, and I’ve often sensed that it is something more than just observation. The coast of Katmai National Park in July is filled with a rich green, dotted by a profusion of lupine, wild geranium and wild iris; all casting a purple hue across the landscape. I’ve always had a bent towards landscape photography, and the setting of my camp along the Katmai coast had huge potential for some amazing scenes. As it turned out, the rainy storms and clouds dominated the skies during most of my visit, but even under a gray sky, the soft and gentle light illuminated the colorful fields. There were brown bears busily feeding on wild celery mixed a midst the purple and I’ll share a few additional photos from this trip in the weeks to come.

Aerial of Mount Augustine volcano

Aerial view of Mt. Augustine volcano, Alaska Peninsula. Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS, (32mm), 1/2000 sec @ f/4, ISO 400

Alaska’s southwest coast is a well known region of the Pacific rim of fire, dotted by active volcanoes and rugged mountains. In 2006, this volcano, Mt Augustine erupted and I photographed it from the Kenai Peninsula (see below). On my recent trip to the coastal region of Katmai National Park, weather conditions required that we fly a more northerly route which took us by this volcano. It was a great view, and pretty much a grab shot taken through the plexi-glass window on the airplane as we flew by. Far less than ideal conditions for aerial photography, but never the less, a very immense view. With some contrast and exposure modifications, I was able to remove the muddy look caused by the plane window. I know I’ve reiterated this before but it is an important note to make regarding shutter speeds when shooting from aircraft: use a high one! I shot this at 1/2000 of a second, to ensure sharpness. It is also interesting to note that in these two images, the volcano is approximately the same size but due to closeness, the 32mm and 700mm focal lengths reveal the variation in distance from the actual volcano.

Mt. Augustine active volcano, March 2006, view from Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska, across the Cook Inelt. Approximately 75 miles from the Volcano, which sits as an island off the coast of the Alaska Peninsula. Incandesence lava flows on the North and North east flank. Canon 1Ds Mark II, 500mm f/4L IS w/1/4x (700mm), 89 seconds @ f/5.6, ISO 400


Vegetation grows under the endless arctic daylight on the tussock filled tundra of Alaskas arctic. Sag river and Brooks range mountains in the distance. Canon 5D Mark III, 24-105mm f/4L IS, 1/4 sec @ f/20, ISO 100, 2:04 AM, June 16

Some of the first hints of color on the tundra are the wooly lousewort flowers. They are early bloomers, and the bright pink color really pops out along the brown tundra. For anyone who has hiked across this kind of terrain, you know what I’m talking about when I say it is difficult travel. It’s a wonder to me how the caribou can move so quickly among these tussocks, but they seem to run through them without much difficulty. The Sagavanirktok river in the distance, flows north out of the Brooks range. At after 2:00 AM in the morning, the sun has already reached it’s lowest point and is beginning to climb higher.

  • Vivian - Lovely lighting! It looks like most of those tussocks are a foot and a half tall or so. I can see how trying to walk in a straight line can be difficult. In the middle ground, there are a number of buds – will those eventually be lousewort flowers?ReplyCancel

  • Marvin Falk - I have tried to show tussocks for years, but this really does a great job of putting them in context.ReplyCancel

Muskox and baby

A young muskox calf and adult on the turndra of Alaska’s arctic north slope. Canon 5D Mark III, 500mm f/4L IS w/1.4x (700mm), 1/200 sec @ f/11, ISO 400

Baby muskox rank up there with the cutest of all little creatures. There were four young ones in this herd of ancient and odd looking animals. Like many wild animals that I’ve spent time with, the younger the accompanying offspring, the more wary they behave – for obvious reasons when one considers the predators that are all too ready to strike. I spent the afternoon getting some exercise under the cloudless skies, waiting for the hot and harsh light to tame down a bit. Even by 9:30pm, the light is still pretty harsh in this setting, but better something than nothing. I ended up hiking across the tussocks and fording a chilly river to photograph these animals, but by they decided to eventually move on before the soft, late evening light fell.

I shot this scene at f/11 in order to get enough depth of field to have the muskox calf and the adult female in the focus. This is one of the rare instances when the animals looked at me. For most of the time they were feeding on the tundra, or napping, and not offering or expressing much interest in me.


  • Lois Bryan - what a delightful image!!!! a pleasure to view!!!ReplyCancel

  • Jim McCann - Patrick, I think the new Canon 500 is awesome! Of course, I only have my FD 4.5 to compare to. I can’t believe I’ve been able to handhold this “Great White” and get sharp images. I just got a Really Right Stuff replacement foot for it and if the sun ever comes out again I’ll be out there trying the lens off my tripod and monopod. Don’t know if you know about Zeck caps for these big lenses, but I just found about them and got one as well. I think it’s great on the front of this 500. I’m broke now and need to make a million image sales to pay for it all, but I’m totally excited about what images I might make in the years to come. My photographic embers have been fanned into flames!ReplyCancel

  • Jim McCann - Patrick,

    Another great image! And besides being cute, those muskox babies are tuff! Decades back while at UAF I was doing my obligatory photo assignments for class and decided to enter a indoor stall where they had a muskox baby like the one in your photograph. I never got the shot ’cause that youngster knocked me on my keaster!ReplyCancel

  • Emlyn - Great image, but was not aware that the light could still be that harsh at 9.30 pm.ReplyCancel

  • Rob Siciliano - Very cute. I agree 100% about the babies. Well worth the trek and wet feet. Mark III seems to be working well for you. I (like you) just wish it auto focused at f8.