A Year in Pictures - 2015

Wed Dec 30 2015

In 2015, two ships passed in the night, creatively speaking.

Since 2011, I have been working almost exclusively on a project about the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. My fieldwork has taken me out on commercial fishing boats, on backcountry camping trips, on fall subsistence hunts, and interviewing dozens of people throughout the region. I took two trips this year to complete the fieldwork for the book. First, I joined renowned Alaskan writer Nick Jans out at the Katmai Wilderness Lodge to cover the recreational and tourism values of the region, photographing wildlife and lodge guests enjoying themselves in the Alaskan wilderness. My second trip, finalizing the fieldwork for the book, came in the fall with a visit to the Coray family homestead on Lake Clark and spending time with Anne Coray and her husband Steve Kahn. It was my second time to the homestead, but the first time for Michelle. We could not have hit the colors any better - autumn was at peak. Surprisingly, the Sockeye salmon were still running. We explored the shore, had a great trail lunch over a fire on the beach, hiked among old and active buildings for a placer mining operation, and I got to chase a bat and capture images using only a 70-200mm lens (surprisingly, I managed to capture an image good enough to go on the cover of "We Alaskans" to go with Steve's piece about the bat).

And while that will certainly not be my last trip to the Bristol Bay region, it was the last for any images that will go in my book, Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska's Bristol Bay. With that project winding down, it was time to return to an old one that was transforming into something much larger.

In 2007, I was the artist-in-residence for Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve. It was my first trip to the artist, and led to several other journeys into America's second largest national park in the heart of the Brooks Range. But I had to put that exploration aside to work on Bristol Bay. This year, I made two trips back to the Brooks Range, Alaska's largest mountain range, solely above the Arctic Circle and containing the most contiguously protected mountain terrain in the United States. Michelle and I took a spring trip to Wiseman to explore for future workshops, and then returned in late August to lead a fall colors and aurora borealis workshop.

But my love for the Arctic could not be constrained to the Brooks Range of Alaska. I decided this year to embark on what will likely be a decade-long endeavor to photograph the circumpolar Arctic - Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. I will be exploring the unique quality of light that occurs at the Arctic regions - midnight sun, long days of low light in winter, the aurora borealis, and alpenglow on mountains. So, for my first stop, Michelle and I spent two weeks in Iceland. We drove the entire coastline of the country, including the West Fjords region (our favorite). I explored many photographic hot spots, but also tried to get my own read of the country, seek my own vision. While this trip produced many satisfying images, it was merely a scouting trip for more explorations to come in the future, including the interior, or highlands, of the country.

And with that all, it was another year of excellent displays of the aurora borealis right here in Alaska. Starting on January 2, I shot each month until it got too light to see the aurora anymore in early May. But, in early August, when the skies grew dark enough again, I was out and the aurora started with a bang. I shot the aurora from within Gates of the Arctic National Park in the Inupiaq village of Anaktuvuk Pass, to Denali Natiional Park to right outside my home on the Anchorage hillside.

Finally, with winding up my Bristol Bay project, I had the opportunity to once again get out and do more general exploring of my backyard here in Southcentral Alaska.

I've prepared a slide show to highlight my top images from the year. If you see something you really like, you can purchase prints in my online Gallery, in the Year in Pictures 2015 gallery.

Coray Homestead Cache on Lake Clark
fall colors and sunset, chandalar shelf, brooks range
Icebergs at Black Sand Beach, Jökulsárlón, Iceland
aurora over frozen knik river