It’s that time of year for photographers to explore their top images from 2018. One approach, the Instagram approach, is to pick the nine images that received the most likes in a year. Why nine you ask? Well, with the Instagram square format, nine square images create a nice square mosaic. Rather than presenting what were the nine or so images that other people liked the most of mine from 2018, I thought I would select my own Alaska photography favorites. And not nine, either; twelve. What, one for each month of the year you ask? No, nothing quite that planned out. I just picked my absolute favorite images, and it turned out to be twelve.
Best of 2018
- Dog mushing in Sweden.In February, I traveled to Slussfors, Sweden, to spend time at the Petter Karlsson Sled Dogs kennel. After going on a backcountry dog mushing trip the previous year with the kennels, I returned to document the kennel operations and training regimen for Petter, as he prepared to run (and win) the Finnmarksløpet. I’ll see him next time when I travel to Norway in March to follow that race and continue his story as he prepares to come to Alaska to run the Iditarod in 2020.
A long night’s dawn and moonset
In March, I had a custom photo tour client for three days. During one long night, we explored the night sky in the Matanuska Valley in search of the aurora borealis. By dawn, we had made our way down to the Turnagain Arm to catch sunrise. Along the way, we watched the nearly-full moon parallel us to the south, seemingly following the ridge line of the Kenai Mountains.
Fireweed and green mountains
In early August, Michelle and I made our way to Tombstone Territorial Park in Yukon Territory, Canada. It was our first trip to the area, and we fell in love with it. While it was late in the season for many types of alpine flowers, it was prime season for fireweed. And given how lush and green the landscape was, the bright pink of the flowers was a perfect contrast.
In September, I co-guided a photo workshop with a photographer from Florida, Marisa Marulli. On our first morning of the workshop, we took the group to Portage Valley, Chugach National Forest. I specifically had in mind this particular pond that, if conditions are right, produces an excellent reflection of the woods and mountains on the far side. On this particular morning, the conditions were perfect. A lack of wind created a perfectly-calm surface on the pond, and a thin fog layer that moved in and out of the scene to create a moody morning landscape.
Falls and light
Following our visit to Portage Valley, I took the Marulli group to Girdwood to explore and photograph Virgin Creek Falls. Nestled in a pocket of rainforest in the middle of a classic alpine ski slope town, Virgin Creek Falls is one of the best, easily-accessible waterfalls in Southcentral Alaska. I only recently discovered it after living in the area for some time, and now go back a couple of times of year to catch the falls in different seasons. This time, I experienced a new element – rays of morning sunlight coming in to accent the scene.
September 11 aurora
I joined Alaska Photo Treks for one of their Anchorage Aurora Quest excursions out to the Knik River area on the night of September 10. It was a pretty decent show, with some curtains, pulsating aurora, and what I call “dark” aurora. As I was heading home at around 3:00 a.m., I saw that the show was still going strong over Anchorage, so I passed my usual exit to stop at Potter Marsh. Within about 15 minutes of stopping, the aurora exploded into a massive, energetic display directly overhead. The structure and color were brilliant, making this one of my favorite aurora displays for the year.
Fall colors in Denali
Michelle and I were fortunate to draw a road lottery permit for Denali National Park this year. Normally, private vehicles are not allowed beyond Mile 15 on the park road, at Savage River. You can only go beyond that point in the park on the park bus system. But, for four days in the fall, the park issues permits to drive the road on a lottery system. This is the second time that Michelle and I have been fortunate enough to draw a permit, and like last time, we had perfectly clear skies. Usually, fall colors are well past peak for the road lottery, which is held in mid-September. But this year, colors were late, and there were still plenty of bushes with full colors at Polychrome Pass, where I captured this image.
Sandhill crane migration in Denali
One of the pleasures of exploring Denali National Park in the fall is witnessing the sandhill crane migration. As they are typically flying overhead at around 10,000 feet, you often hear them long before you see them. We saw a few groups of cranes flying through on our road lottery day, but this group was just at the right angle to see them with Denali in the backrgound. The lenticular clouds added a cool element to the mountain, making for an even stronger image.
Curious polar bear cub
The Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge hosts the highest density of polar bears in the entire north slope region of Alaska. As such, the village of Kaktovik, located on the very top of the Refuge along the edge of the Beaufort Sea, is perfectly situated as a base of operations to photograph polar bears. The bears are also attracted to the “bone pile,” an organic scrap heap of waste product such as bones and other material left over from the subsistence harvest of whales by the community. Due to high winds, we were grounded for two days and unable to proceed out on our guide boat. But, on the last morning, the winds calmed enough, we we had a clear, sunny morning. We came upon a polar bear sow and her cub, who was very curious about us.
Sukakpak and methane bubbles
During my fall photo workshop in Wiseman, we experienced cold and snow-free conditions, which allowed us to explore various snow-free, icy conditions. When stopping by at a favorite pond to capture reflections of Mt. Sukakpak in evening light, I discovered a network of methane bubbles that added a new element to photograph the mountain.
Milky Way over Mt. Sukakpak
One of the reasons I choose to conduct a workshop in Wiseman is its access to the mountains of the Brooks Range, most notably, Mt. Sukakpak. It is a dominant feature on the landscape, and offers three distinct views depending on what direction you are looking. Here, while waiting for the aurora borealis to start its nightly show, we waited near the Dietrich River and spent time photographing the Milky Way overhead.
Cook Inlet sunset
After a busy autumn of travel to various landscapes throughout the state, I returned home from six weeks of travel to enjoy the comforts of home. One of those comforts is enjoying the view of Cook Inlet from out deck. On this particular October evening, the rich colors, silhouette of Mt. Redoubt in the distance, and framing of Sitka Spruce trees presented perfect elements for a sunset photo from the deck. Alaska Photography is incredible.