Glacier Bay and the Summer is Flying By!

            The summer sure hasn’t slowed down. Right after my workshop to Lake Clark I drove back to Skagway.  I did get to see some grizzly bears late at night on the drive, and that was really cool.  I was exhausted when I got back to Skagway, but there was no time for that! I needed to catch up on everything from when I was gone, and Twila and my sister and her husbands’ family were coming before July 4th.

Yes I do take iPhone pictures, and this was taken at 12:30 at night!

Yes I do take iPhone pictures, and this was taken at 12:30 at night!

            I was so excited to pick up Twila from the airport in Whitehorse on July 2nd! It had been way to long since we had been together, and the summer time is crazy and we don’t get to be together nearly as much as we want.  On the morning of the 3rd Cara and her family flew in, and it was great to have them here too. It was my sister and her family’s first time in Alaska, which is always exciting. We all took the train into the mountains in the afternoon, and that was fun.  At night we had a fire and roasted s’mores and just had a good relaxing evening. 

            July 4th is always a fun day in Skagway, with lots of festivities.  It decided to rain all day, which put a damper on the day.  But we still went out and enjoyed as much of it as we could.  The next morning we were all flying out of Skagway, but going to different places.  My sisters flight was suppose to leave at 5 a.m. and ours was at 8 a.m. When we got to the tiny airport they were still there because of low clouds and the planes couldn’t fly.  So Twila and I jumped in on the card game and we all waited for the clouds to clear.

             This is fairly common in Alaska, but still frustrating.  They finally got to leave at 9 a.m., but we still couldn’t leave.  We finally left at 11 a.m. and took two flights to get to Gustavus, which is right beside Glacier Bay National Park. Because of our delays we missed our whale watching trip, so instead we had a nice relaxing evening and rode our bikes down to the beach.  It was nice to relax for a little while!

Twila and I riding our bikes down to the beach!

Twila and I riding our bikes down to the beach!

            On the 5th and 6th we took a boat ride into Glacier Bay to see the sea life, but mostly to see the huge tidewater glaciers. We really wanted to see these large glaciers and get some nice photos of them! The weather cooperated, which it has been super rainy this summer, and we were able to see all the mountains around and the sun even came out some both days.  We even had some good wildlife sightings with mountain goats down by the water, a grizzly bear family chasing each other over a salmon, lots of whales and Twila even got one jumping! (and I missed it), sea otters and lots of sea lions.  Our boat went to a different large glacier each day, which was what we were hoping for and we got some really great shots! It was so neat seeing these huge glaciers and the mountains surrounding them.  We both took tons of shots and had a great time!

            We flew out the evening of the 6th and flew to Juneau. The next morning we went on a whale watching tour and had a great trip! It was a very bumpy ride, but a fun one, and worth it when we got to the whales and got to see a group of humpback whales bubble feeding! It was Twila’s first time seeing bubble feeding, and I’ve not seen it that many times.  We got to watch them do it over and over and was so awesome to see! We flew to Skagway that afternoon and then drove to Whitehorse that night and she flew back to Canmore the next morning.  It was so sad to see her go, and our time together went too fast.  I’m so thankful she could come and that we were able to go to Glacier Bay!

            I was in Skagway the next couple of weeks catching up and researching other trips and trying to plan out the rest of the summer.  The summer time is one crazy time that never seems to slow down.  Before I knew it, it was July 19th and I was flying to Knoxville to go to my little brothers wedding.  It was a long flight overnight, and I slept a lot when I got there on the 20th.  Twila flew in that night, and it was great to be together again so soon! The wedding weekend went by real fast, and it was really really hot. My brother decided to get married outside in Tennessee in July, and the temperature decided to be 95 and feel like 111.  I almost passed out during the wedding I was so hot.  But I’m glad I was there and the wedding went great. Seeing so many friends and family was also a great time, and we will get to see them all relatively soon at our wedding! Our wedding will be here before we know it, and we can’t wait!

At Corbin's Wedding

At Corbin's Wedding

            The wedding went so fast, and Twila and I didn’t have much time together alone, so I flew to see her the next weekend.  She’s been really busy getting ready for a festival where she sells her jewelry at, so I went to help as much as I could and to also do wedding planning.  We ended up doing mostly wedding planning and trying to catch up on that and not fall behind.  I had no idea how much planning a wedding is! We were able to have a little other time where we weren’t working on something too.  We both really hope the next month and half goes by real fast, and by then I will be done with the gallery and I’ll be back in Canmore and our wedding will be right around the corner!

            It is now August, somehow, and it finally decided to be summer in Skagway and get into the 80’s, which I personally don’t like and think is way to hot here.  I’ll head off to Denali for a couple of weeks and can’t wait for that.  The northern lights even decided to give us an early season show, and I got a picture of my BearHead sign with the lights behind it! I was very happy about this and was hoping that I could get that shot! Time is flying by!

Final Gallery Preparations

           The first couple of weeks of April I spent in Canada with Twila, and it was kind of the calm before the storm of the final preparations for the gallery.  I was still ordering things and planning out many details of the gallery, but I knew it would be way calmer than what was coming soon.  Twila and I managed to get out into the parks some and look for wildlife, and it is such a luxury that we can do that right out her front door!  But on April 15th I flew to TN and the preparations for the gallery hit a new level.

            My trailer was at my parents place in TN, and I had been sending my new supplies to their place.  I flew back to organize everything and get the trailer packed.  The amount of things I needed to do in TN in the little amount of time I had was daunting, but I powered through the list.  First I had to make sure everything I had ordered came in, and then I had to go around to different stores to get more little items and think of things to take that I can’t get in Skagway, AK.  Skagway is a small town, with no other towns anywhere near it, so I have to take a lot of extra supplies for things I might need at some point in the summer because I can’t get them while I’m there.

            I managed to get everything done in those few days, and then I headed to East TN to work at my Granddad’s shop.  My Granddad has an awesome carpentry shop with every tool imaginable, and I needed to make some wooden dividers for my gallery.  My Granddad has made wooden things his entire life, he’s in his late 80’s, and both of us couldn’t wait to work on this project together!  As soon as I got to his house we hit the ground running.  There was no time to waste, as I only had a couple of days.  My little brother, Corbin, helped a lot that first day too, and the things I learned from my Granddad and how he knew so much about carpentry was so great!  My dad came later that day and it became a team effort to get them made.  We stopped at 9:30 p.m. and had made great progress for the first day.

Granddad watching Corbin and I cut some wood from inside his shop.

Granddad watching Corbin and I cut some wood from inside his shop.

            The next morning I thought my Granddad might be tired from our long day yesterday, but he was up and ready to help!  Just having him there and helping made the project well worth it!  The dividers started to come together in the morning, and it was great to see them and how well they came together.  There was lots of sanding and lots of aligning the wood to make sure everything fit and was how we wanted it.  My Granddad again, had lots of good ideas of how to finish the dividers and make them look great!  By the time I left at 4:30 for the weekend with my little brother, they were basically done.  I did some playing with my brother over the weekend, and my dad helped add the finishing touches to the dividers with my Granddad.  It was a true team effort to get them made in a short time and I appreciated all the help I got, especially from my Granddad!

Holding a finished wooden divider with my Grandparents!

Holding a finished wooden divider with my Grandparents!

            I headed back to my parents place on Sunday and started packing the trailer as soon as I got back.  Packing the trailer is like a large game of fragile Tetris, and it is not easy to figure out.  As the trailer began to fill up on Monday, I started wondering how I had so much stuff.  When it was all packed, I felt like I had more in the trailer than I did last year, which I didn’t think would be the case.  I made a number of changes from last year to this year and I was making more than I realized I guess.  It all fit, though, and the trailer was ready for the long drive to Alaska.

            Now the crazy amount of travel was about to begin. On Tuesday, the 25th, I flew back to Canada and was with Twila only one day before driving to Minnesota.  My parents agreed to drive the trailer to Minnesota to help spare me more driving than I was already going to do.  I slept in my car somewhere in Montana on the 27th, and finished the long drive to Minnesota on the 28th.  My older brother, Aaron, lives near Minneapolis and just had another baby, so I got to see baby Theodore.  My parents also didn’t mind driving to Minnesota to see him as well.  I hung out there all day on the 29th, and it was fun, and then started the drive back to Canada on the 28th.

Swinging with my little Niece Stella in Minnesota!

Swinging with my little Niece Stella in Minnesota!

            I managed to drive 17 hours on the 29th, which meant I wouldn’t have to drive terribly far the next day.  When I got to Twila’s on May 1st, it was great to know that 2/3 of the driving was done and that I would be able to rest another couple of days before finishing the driving. Last year my dad and I drove straight from TN to Skagway, 3,600 miles in 65 hours over 4 days, and I didn’t want to do that by myself.  Splitting it up helped greatly.  I didn’t do much when I was in Canmore with Twila, because I knew I still had two full days of driving ahead of me.

            On May 4th Twila and I left Canmore and headed for Skagway.  It was great having Twila along to give me company and help the time pass by more quickly.  She had never been on most of the drive too, and she loves seeing new places.  I drove 16 hours the first day, and made pretty good time honestly.  I knew the rougher roads would be the next day, the further we got along the Alcan Highway.  The weather mostly cooperated and we didn’t have bad wind and only some minor rain the whole way.  We saw a bunch of wildlife along the way too, which was great.  I love how much Twila loves wildlife and how excited she gets when see sees bears, moose, caribou and other animals.  At 6:30 p.m. on May 5th we pulled in to Skagway, and so much time and energy went into getting to Skagway, and I was glad to be there.

When Twila and I made it to Alaska with the trailer! Before a long descent into Skagway.

When Twila and I made it to Alaska with the trailer! Before a long descent into Skagway.

            We got to see my new apartment for the first time, I got a different one from last year, that we got to Skagway with no car issues was great.  There was no time to relax, as the next morning we started unloading the trailer and getting the gallery ready first thing.  Once we had the trailer unloaded and realized nothing was broken from the long trip, it was a big relief.  A number of pictures were damaged from the trip last year. I was opening on the 9th, and only had a few days to get the gallery ready to go.  Having Twila there for the first couple of days was a HUGE help, and I was very sad to take her to the airport in Whitehorse, Yukon to fly out on the 8th.  I wish she could stay all summer, but it just won’t work out that way this summer. 

            By the 9th I was ready to open, but it was more work than I was expecting.  I knew I was making changes to the gallery, but they took longer to 100% get right and make the gallery look how I wanted to look.  But I was happy I made the changes and the gallery looks great!  I continued to finish all the small things as the gallery was open for the first few days, but most guests wouldn’t have noticed what I was working on or didn’t have up yet.  The first few days the gallery did well and gives me hope for a good season.  My employee will arrive on the 12th and the season will go by fast like last year.  It really is a ton of effort on many peoples part to get the gallery open on time, and I’m thankful I have family and friends that are willing and able to help!  The gallery is now ready and let the summer begin!

The new look of the Gallery!

The new look of the Gallery!

Yellowstone and Gallery Preparation

            After my workshop, I was ready to get out on my own, and with Twila, and photograph more.  The day after I picked up Twila, February 6th, is when my otter video went viral, and my plans changed.  Instead of getting out in the park and showing Twila Yellowstone, I was at my friends house answering email requests and phone calls about my video for a couple of days.  It was very exciting, but I felt bad because Twila had never been to Yellowstone before, and we didn’t even make it into the park for a couple of days. 

            Once the requests slowed down, we went in the park and I was excited to be back in the park and show Twila how great Yellowstone is in the winter.  The weather really didn’t cooperate with us, unfortunately.  The wind howled for a few days, and actually shut the park road down a couple of times because of zero visibility and drifting snow.  When the roads were ok, we did get to see moose, sheep, bison, coyotes, and distant wolves.  I was hoping for her to be able to see a wolf decently close, but we never saw a wolf except through a spotting scope.

Twila and I enjoying the snow in Yellowstone.

Twila and I enjoying the snow in Yellowstone.

            We went on a snowcoach to Old Faithful on the 9th, but that didn’t go how I had hoped either.  We got to go in for free with a friend of mine, and I was excited to show her the geysers and hot springs around Old Faithful.  However, it was a warm day in February and it decided to rain, and not snow.  I had never seen it rain in the interior of the park in February.  I was bummed it had to happen on the day we went in the park.  We did watch Old Faithful erupt, but it was too wet and nasty to walk around and look at the other thermal features.  She will just have to come back and try again next year.

            It was sad seeing all the snow melt from the strange warm up, and having brown patches appear in the snow.  Just a week ago there was so much snow, and now ground was showing underneath.  It’s amazing how fast nature changes things.  I was getting discouraged, so we went to West Yellowstone to visit, and for Twila to meet, some good friends.  It was nice to relax there a couple of days and to visit with them.  We then went to the Grand Tetons to see the beautiful mountains there, and the wildlife.

            The Elk Refuge is a very neat area, with thousands of elk residing there in the winter.  Twila had never seen so many elk in one place before, and she loved it!  I even got a nice shot of an eagle taking off from a cliff at sunset as she watched the elk.  We stayed with my friends in town, and it was fun seeing them again too. 

An eagle takes off from a cliff at last light.

An eagle takes off from a cliff at last light.

            On Valentines Day we went back to the refuge in the morning, and my car got washed by the big horn sheep licking it.  This thrilled Twila, and she loved every second of it! We, of course, then took a drive to see the beautiful Teton mountains, and they are a very scenic mountain range.  That afternoon Twila spotted a red fox and a great grey owl! I was impressed with her ability to spot wildlife, and it’s great that she loves seeing wildlife so much! We went out in Jackson that night, but we had to leave early the next morning so we didn’t stay out too late.

One of the big horn sheep cleaning my car stops and checks out Twila.

One of the big horn sheep cleaning my car stops and checks out Twila.

           We got up at 5:30 a.m. on the 16th and hit the road back to Canmore, AB.  It was a 12-hour drive, but the roads were good the whole way and we made it to Canmore in one day.  Twila had work she needed to get done for her business, and I needed to start planning everything I needed to get for my gallery this summer.  I was glad Twila made it to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, but the weather didn’t cooperate.  But at least she made it and we had a great time together and next year will be better for her.

            It was nice being back in Canmore and relaxing after the past few weeks of craziness.  I went out and explored Banff National Park some, but didn’t have much success for the most part.  Once I started planning for the summer, I couldn’t stop myself.  There was just so much to think about for everything I wanted to bring back from last year and try to change: what to replace, what do I need more of, what signs to change or make new ones of, what sizes of new pictures, and the list goes on.  The more I did, the more I thought of that I needed to work on.  I’m thankful year one of the gallery is done, and that I now have more experience and knowledge of what my customers are looking for.  It was a very different feel preparing for the gallery this year from last year.

            Working on the gallery was made easier by where Twila is now living.  Last year she was in downtown Vancouver, BC, and now her place is in the mountains and has a great view!  There is just something about looking out the window and seeing only beautiful mountains.  Seeing mountains out the windows even helps me work inside better. 

            We’re not sure where the time went, and before we knew it, it was April.  March absolutely flew by, and that means the summer is getting close.  I feel much more prepared for the gallery this year, and I am looking forward to it.  I will have to do a crazy amount of traveling between now and being in Alaska in May though.  Let’s just say my trailer and pictures are all in Tennessee, and I am in Canada.  Let the craziness begin!

Canadian Rockies

          As the days of September ticked away, I got closer and closer to packing up the gallery and heading south.  By September 12th I was ready to go, but still had a few days before I would take the gallery down for the winter.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy having my own gallery, but I was just exhausted from an extremely long Alaskan summer.  I knew going in that it would be mountains of work to properly get my gallery up and running, but it turned out to be even more than I had planned.  It was nice knowing my first year was almost done, and how much better prepared I would be for next year.

            The last day the gallery was open was the 16th, and as soon as it slowed down that afternoon, my employee and I took the gallery down and packed it for the winter.  I left a number of things in the gallery, as I will be back next year, but took many of the prints with me.  It only took a few hours for it to come down, and I hope setting up next year will only take that long.  We got it all packed up, and by that evening I was on the road heading south into Canada.

Standing in front of my gallery the last morning it was open.

Standing in front of my gallery the last morning it was open.

            On the drive south, I finally had time to look back on the summer and evaluate most of what had transpired.  May seems like years ago, because of how much took place over the course of the summer.  It’s amazing to think back on how I thought things would go at the beginning of the summer, and how many things ended up turning out.  I’m sure in the coming weeks I will have more time to sit and think about the summer, but on the drive it was nice to not have to worry about how the gallery was doing for the first time in months.  My brain was ready for a break, and photographing in the Canadian Rockies would be the perfect medicine.

            After over two full days of driving, and almost 30 hours, I got to Canmore, AB, which is where my fiancé had moved.  I was very happy my car made it there with no problems, because it has started to act up a little, but it also has 264,000 miles on it! It has been a beast, and I plan on riding it until it dies!  After only a couple days of rest, we headed out to go photograph the elk rut in the Canadian Rockies.

            Photographing is always where I am the happiest, and also not thinking about the gallery while out photographing was extremely nice.  A number of my photographer friends were out photographing too, and it was fun catching up with everyone.  The elk rut was in full swing, and on our first morning a large bull gave us a good chase.  That was Twila’s initiation into how crazy the elk are this time of year.  She is a quick learner, and that was the only really intense moment we had on the trip.  Soon after he chased us, I ended up getting my favorite picture of the trip.  His females decided to swim a river, so he went after them, and it was very foggy and hard to see, but it made for a very dramatic picture with the elk in the river!

A bull elk stands in a river surrounded by fog and looks for his females.

A bull elk stands in a river surrounded by fog and looks for his females.

        It was nice seeing some of the bull elk I had seen last year back, and them be even larger this year.  Over the course of 10 days, we fully immersed ourselves into the elk rut and got some great photos!  There were two elk that were particularly dominant, and all the other elk would run from them.  I was really hoping to get to photograph a fight, but it didn’t happen unfortunately.  There had been fights before we were able to get to the park, but by the time we had gotten there most of the hierarchy of elk was already established, and the challengers would just run away.  

A bull elk bugles in the last light of the day.

A bull elk bugles in the last light of the day.

           One of the nice things about the elk rut is, even though you may not know exactly where the bulls are sometimes, if you sit long enough you would hear one bugle.  The elk bugle is one of my favorite sounds of the mountains, and it is so majestic hearing them call out and hear it echo throughout the valleys.  It is such a powerful sound, and one that gets my heart beating.  I particularly like the cold mornings when you can see their breath as they bugle.  Being in the woods with them during the rut is exciting.  You really have to stay on your toes, because they are pumped up on testosterone and can charge at any second.

On a frosty morning, a bull elk releases a lot of steam.

On a frosty morning, a bull elk releases a lot of steam.

           We were also excited to be back in the Canadian Rockies, because it is where me met exactly a year ago on September 21st.  I was actually photographing a bull elk, and Twila was a tourist who happened to stop that day.  We ended up hitting it off, obviously, and we both have a deep love of wildlife.  But being back in the place where we met was special.  It just goes to show you never know what will happen in the mountains!

My favorite elk comes my direction in the woods.

My favorite elk comes my direction in the woods.

          Over the course of the 10 days I was able to capture some nice behavior, and capture them in many different environments.   When they are on the riverbank or in the river is when I like to photograph them the most, and I had a few opportunities when they were there.  One day a couple friends of mine and I followed a bull elk as he left his cows and went to look for more.  It was a neat experience walking beside him for nearly three miles and just seeing more into what an elk does in the rut.  One of the biggest things during the rut is that they are unpredictable, and I like the thrill of discovering the unknown. 

A bull elk looks over his harem as they cross the river.

A bull elk looks over his harem as they cross the river.

         The northern lights were also out a few nights, and one night we stayed up to look for them.  They came out for us, and we went and watched them over a lake.  It is always a neat experience seeing the lights and watching them move across the sky.  It was a calm night too, which made for some nice reflections on the lake.

The northern lights and the big dipper are reflected into the lake.

The northern lights and the big dipper are reflected into the lake.

         By the 28th I was ready to go and get back to Canmore.  My body was running on empty from my summer and the past 10 days, and I didn’t have the energy I was accustomed to having.  We left after the morning shoot, and the nice thing about living in Canmore is that it is only a short drive away.  I fully realized how exhausted my body was when we got there, because for the first few days I couldn’t stay awake later than 9 p.m.  But again, I wouldn’t change any of it.

          I’m looking forward to just relaxing and hanging out for the next number of weeks and catching up on photos from the summer.   I was so busy this summer I didn’t have a chance to organize and really go through most of my photos.  But I should have some time coming up, and will try and get caught up on my pictures while also relaxing.  It’s crazy to think that my first year of having a gallery is already over.  What a summer it was, and now to relax and look back on the summer and prepare for next year.

 

 

Non-Stop August

            I wasn’t back in my gallery long before I already had the itch to get back out and go photographing.  I had planned on going in a couple of weekends to photograph whales in Juneau, but those plans changed.  That whole week everyone who came in my gallery was showing me amazing photos and videos of humpback whales bubble feeding from their iPhones, so I knew I had to go immediately.  My friend Aaron, from Yellowstone, lived in Juneau and I had been in communication with him about the following weekend, so I was happy he could accommodate me the next day.  My plans became final at 4 p.m. on July 28th, and at 5 a.m. on the 29th I was on a plane to Juneau.  When the wildlife gets hot, you can’t waste any time and have to go immediately.  I was very grateful to have good friends in Juneau that I could crash with, and borrow their truck too.

            They picked me up at the airport at 5:50 a.m., great friends!, and then we went to Mendenhall Lake.  My friend and his girlfriend are glacier guides on Mendenhall, so we first kayaked two miles to the glacier across a fogged in lake, we could hardly see, but as we got closer it started to clear some.  It was awesome being the only ones out there and kayaking to a glacier.  We pulled the kayaks on shore and then put on crampons and walked onto the glacier.  The ice was very blue that morning, and just gorgeous.  I got some real nice shots of the glacier, and then we went and found an ice cave.  Seeing and walking into an ice cave under a glacier is quite the experience.  It’s something I can’t describe except through the photos I have.  It was an amazing, but scary, experience at the same time, and the photos came out great!  We had a great time and then kayaked back.  I was so grateful that they took me out on the glacier for free.

The beauty of and unreal look at the inside of an ice cave under a glacier.

The beauty of and unreal look at the inside of an ice cave under a glacier.

            They both had to work after that, so they dropped me off in town and I went on a whale watching tour that started at 3:30.  There were 50 people on the boat, not my favorite, and we got to see what I came for.  We found a group of humpbacks, they are usually solitary, and they were moving along the shore together.  They did bubble feed a couple of times, but it happened so fast and unexpectedly each time, and I didn’t get much.  It was neat to see, and I would be better prepared for next time.  On the 30th I did a long hike by myself to try and get above the Mendenhall Glacier and get a more aerial shot.  As I got higher I got into the clouds, and they weren’t breaking up.  I didn’t want to sit up there all day and get nothing, so I called a different whale watching company and they had an opening at 1:30, so I hurried four miles back down the mountain.  My friends picked me up as I got there, and dropped me off at the harbor just in time.

            This time I was on a small ship with only 12 people, and it was much better.  I just knew we were going to have success, and success we had!  We went straight out to where a group of whales were bubble net feeding, and what a sight it was.  Seeing a group of 10 whales come up at the same time with their mouths open is quite the site!  My boat even had a microphone under water, and we could hear the different sounds they were making, and would know when they were about to come up.  It was such a better experience than the day before, and I got some great shots!  I was bummed we left as soon as we did, but where we went we found a pod of Orcas!  They were being active and staying close to the surface and being somewhat playful.  There was a baby in the group and it even jumped a couple of times.  What a great trip! And I get to go with the same company tomorrow.  So glad I flew down the mountain to go whale watching.

A group of humpback whales bubble net feed.

A group of humpback whales bubble net feed.

            My first tour was at 7 a.m. on the 31st, and my friends dropped me off on their way to work.  We saw a few orcas and single humpbacks, but nothing great.  I learned from this trip it’s actually not best to be on the first trip of the day, because they have to find where the whales are, and spend more time searching.  I was trying to decide after that tour whether to stay tomorrow morning before flying back to Skagway, because my next tour went out at 2 p.m.  I went back and forth, but ended up deciding to leave after my tour this afternoon so I could be back in the gallery tomorrow, and I had a feeling I would get more shots on my last tour.  My gut was right, and we got to see more bubble net feeding, and I captured some nice scenic shots of them feeding!  By 7 p.m. I was back on a plane to Skagway and home by 8 p.m.  What a crazy three days, but it was more than worth it!  You have to go with your gut in wildlife photography and not look back and just go.  Heading back to the gallery was a great idea, because on the 1st  we had a killer day, and was a great way to kick off August!

A baby orca breaches.

A baby orca breaches.

            For the next couple of weeks I worked the gallery and stayed in Skagway.  As the summer has gone on, I have gotten more comfortable in my own gallery and learned more about what the people are looking for and how to sway them to buy art.  It’s never easy, and each day is drastically different than the day before, but I’m learning a ton. When I’m in Skagway, I’m trying to catch up from all the time I was gone, and then get ahead a little for when the next time I’m gone I don’t have a mountain of work to come back to.  It’s a never-ending cycle, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

            On the afternoon of August 15th I left Skagway and headed for Denali.  I slept in the car somewhere along the way, and then got to Fairbanks the next afternoon and got some car work done and bought a few things you can’t find in Skagway.  I stayed at a friends that I had met in the backcountry of Denali a few years back, and it was fun to catch up.  The morning of the 17th I picked up my friend, Tin Man, from the airport and we headed to Denali.  I had a special travel permit that started on the 18th, so we went on the 17th to explore a little.  We found some nice caribou and did some short hikes, but didn’t get anything great.  We camped further back in the park and were ready to go the next morning when we could drive the entire Denali road in my car.

We left camp at 4:30 a.m., only to be stopped a few miles away because the road was closed to fix part of the road.  We only had three days of the permit, and this wasn’t how we wanted to spend it, waiting on road construction.  So we waited until 7 a.m., very painful, and then continued on.  Denali mtn. was out, but we were to far away from where we wanted to be, and wouldn’t have been if the road wasn’t closed.  You can never take the mountain being out for granted, and it quickly got covered in the clouds.  So frustrating!  We went to some of my favorite spots anyway, but not much was going on.

          After a while we headed back toward the front, and that turned out to be a great decision! There was a caribou that had just shed his velvet, and had very red antlers.  We were able to stay with him a while and got some great shots!  I’ve been trying for a few years to get a caribou like this.  After him, we decided to hike up a mountain to another large caribou, and he posed for us on the mountainside once we were able to get to him.  Hiking in the Denali tundra is not easy, and Tin Man had never done it before.  It is unrelenting, and very bushy and hard to maneuver through.  I have years of experience in it and can find easier routes, still not easy but easier, but Tin Man struggled.  He pushed through, though, and made it to the caribou in time.  We were even able to spot a huge moose below us that we photographed after we left the caribou.  It turned out to be a great first evening, after a very disappointing start to the day.

A caribou has very red antlers after shedding his velvet.

A caribou has very red antlers after shedding his velvet.

            The road was closed again until 7 a.m. on the 19th, so we slept in until 6 a.m. and then left.  Having two of our three days start way later than we want really stunk.  It is a special privilege to have the permit I had, and not be able to fully use it hurt.  The mountain didn’t tease us this morning and was fully behind clouds and rain.  We didn’t spend much time far back in the park before heading back to where we knew caribou and moose were.  I’m glad we didn’t waste our time back there, because we immediately found a bull moose.  He wasn’t huge, but we got a few shots.  Some really nice caribou were close by, so we went to them.  They stayed in a group and gave us some great opportunities! I love how different all caribou antlers are.  

A couple of large, very different sized antlered caribou check me out.

A couple of large, very different sized antlered caribou check me out.

            After we had got our fill with the caribou, we decided to head back deep into the park because the weather was improving.  Almost immediately we found a cow and bull moose when we got out there.  They were in a depression with a pond, so we stayed and waited for them to come out.  It was worth the wait, and the bull posed for us on the hillside with the mountains behind him.  It took us a while after to find another moose, but we finally did, and the light was great!  We trekked up to him, but he was not cooperative.  It was a brutal hike through the tundra to get to him, and then he would move out of range.  The light was great and we hadn’t found anything else, so we kept trying.  I’m so glad we did, because eventually he relaxed.  Tin Man had a bad back and couldn’t keep up, but he did make it, which was not easy for him in the type of terrain we were in.  The bull moose decided to pause on a little ridge for minutes with the mountains behind him and great light! I couldn’t believe it!  Then he came to the pond I was near and ate basically right in front of me.  It was absolutely incredible!  I don’t even know how many miles we trekked, but the shots we got were insane!  We finally left the moose at 10 p.m., and didn’t get back to camp until after midnight.  What a day!

A decent sized bull moose on a ridge.

A decent sized bull moose on a ridge.

A large sized moose on a ridge in the evening.

A large sized moose on a ridge in the evening.

The large bull moose eats in the pond directly across from me.

The large bull moose eats in the pond directly across from me.

            After the day before, you would think we would sleep in, right? Wrong! There is no sleeping in if you’re a wildlife photographer, and by 5 a.m. the next morning we were heading back out.  We found a beautiful cross fox first thing, and it was the first fox we had seen.  Only a couple more miles down the road we saw two bull moose on a ridge, and I knew we would go after them.  I had only had four small donuts for breakfast, and was to tired to actually eat when we got to camp last night, but when there are photographs to be had it doesn’t matter to me.  So off we went across even worse tundra to trek through than yesterday. 

A large and small bull moose hang by a pond and have a perfect reflection.

A large and small bull moose hang by a pond and have a perfect reflection.

     When I got to the top of the ridge, there were three bull moose, and they went to pond to eat.  Tin Man unfortunately couldn’t make it because his back was really hurting him.  But I kept going and ended up following these moose for over three hours.  You just never know what or where an animal will go, but you have to have patience to stay with them and wait it out.  When I left the car that morning I would have ever dreamed of the shots I would get a few hours later, and am still excited about the shots I got that morning!  Let’s just say that after miles of following, losing them, and finding them again, I got to photograph all three on a ridge silhouetted against the Alaskan Range and reflected! Those shots will never be duplicated, and those are the shots that all wildlife photographers strive to get and spend months working for.  I’m still ecstatic about that moment and how incredible it was!  When I finally got back to the car, and Tin Man, I felt bad telling him about it and wish he would have been there with me.

The same two bull moose silhouetted, and reflected against the backdrop of the Alaskan Range.

The same two bull moose silhouetted, and reflected against the backdrop of the Alaskan Range.

A bull moose walk the ridge on a beautiful day in Denali.

A bull moose walk the ridge on a beautiful day in Denali.

            We didn’t find anything else deep in the park, so we went to the front and were hoping to find that huge moose from our first night.  Sure enough, high up on the hill he was standing in the willows.  He was a very long way away, and in some nasty terrain.  The threat of rain was also strong, but I decided to go in the end.  When in Rome, or Denali in this case was my mindset.  It was a very hard slog to where the moose was, and I wasn’t positive where he was because he bedded down.  I somehow managed to find his antler between the brush, and not to much longer he got up and began eating again.  He was huge, and I was glad I decided to go.  I got some real nice shots of him, and after a while another bull- moose came from somewhere and joined him.  The way he responded to the other moose was aggressive and interesting to watch.  Glad he didn’t show that aggression toward me.  It started to rain harder, so I went back.  But what a beauty of a moose he was!

The monster moose checks out the other bull moose as it approaches.

The monster moose checks out the other bull moose as it approaches.

            What a three days of the permit! We didn’t take any time off and had 15-18 hour days!  But we were rewarded for our hard work.  On the morning of the 21st we packed up and left by 7 a.m. and explored the entrance area of the park.  We got to follow another nice bull- moose around and got some nice pictures before having to head back to Fairbanks for Tin Man to catch his flight.  After dropping Tin Man off I continued on my way back to Skagway and spent the night in my car along the way and got back on the morning of the 22nd.  It is a 14-hour drive from Denali to Skagway.

            After being back a day at the gallery, my parents came on the 24th.  They got to experience the difficulties of Alaskan travel when their plan was delayed for hours because of low clouds.  But they made it in, and got to see my gallery all set up!  My parents were in town four days, and spent most of that time in the gallery with me, and exploring the area around Skagway.  I took the scenic train ride with them one day, and had been trying to do that all summer.  It was fun having my parents in town and them getting to see my gallery in action and all the prints on the wall. 

            On the morning of the 28th I flew from Whitehorse to Vancouver to help my fiancé move.  She was moving to Canmore, AB to be more in the mountains and in a much quieter place.  I was glad I could fly down to help her with this move and take some stress off of her.  We hired packers for the move, but there was still a ton to do.  It was neat being there as her life transitions to Canmore and creates a new life there.  She has a great view of the mountains from her deck, and I can’t wait to go back and visit!  I flew out on September 4th to go back to the gallery to close out the summer.

            As you can see I am a man who is constantly on the move.  There is not time to rest in the Alaskan summer, because it is short.  I’d have it no other way and enjoy everything that comes with being in Alaska.  But I am more than looking forward to the fall and winter, to take it a little easier, and finally take some time to relax.  What a summer it has been though!  I’ll wrap up the gallery in a couple of weeks and head south.

Skagway Gallery!

              After months of hard work and planning, and years of taking photographs, my first gallery is now open in Skagway, AK!  Opening the gallery has been of the best and most challenging things I have ever done.  I'm use to preparing for months of the road and living out of my car, but planning to have a storefront with my images was way harder.  There were so many little things to think of that make a huge difference in the look and feel of the gallery and how the images are displayed.  After months and months of preparation, I was just ready to get all of my images to Alaska and set up and be done with the preparing part.  

               On April 18th, my dad and I left Tullahoma, TN and began the very long drive north to Alaska.  In all it was 3,500 miles, 65 hours, and 4 full days of driving to get to Skagway.  We were both exhausted when we arrived, but began setting up early the next morning.  It was a bumpy ride across Canada on the Alkan highway, and over half of my framed pictures had corners broken.  I figured a few might be dinged, but over half?  We found an all around handy fixer rope with corners, and amazingly it was able to fix all of my frames! This was a huge sigh of relief, because I wasn't sure what I was going to do otherwise.  

              As the gallery came together more and more each day, my excitement grew.  My dream was becoming reality of opening my own gallery.  From the beginning of my photography career, I always enjoyed the fine art side of photography more so than the editorial or photojournalism side.  In the past few years I began to look around towns and scope out areas that I thought might be a place where I could have a gallery.  I didn't think it would happen this year, but I found a great opportunity and went for it, and now I have a gallery in Alaska.  The summer will continue to be a learning experience of things to change, prove on, and what works and doesn't work for a gallery store.  I'm excited to learn those things and see how the summer and my first gallery go.  I'm very excited about this next phase in my photography career!

What my gallery space looked like when we showed up.

What my gallery space looked like when we showed up.

Finished gallery view from the front.

Finished gallery view from the front.

Finished gallery view from the back.

Finished gallery view from the back.