The Summer is Here!

            Where has the past few months gone? I feel like just the other day it was Christmas, and now I’m already back in Alaska for the summer and starting to get into full swing at the gallery. After the New Year, Twila and I spent time at home recovering from the crazy year we had in 2018. It was great in many ways, but we were non-stop to many corners of North America. It was both of our best year ever in photography, and in 2019 we are looking forward to the trips we already have planned, and the ones that will happen that we don’t know of yet!

            Toward the end of January I headed to Yellowstone to lead my photography workshop. I look forward to going there every year, not only for the photography, but to get to see the many friends I have that live around the park. The first few days I was on my own scouting and finding where the animals were before picking up my group and heading to West Yellowstone to start the workshop.

The first few days of the trip we went in from the west side on a snowcoach, and it’s always great having our own private coach to be able to go where and when we want to go somewhere. The highlight of the three days was a cold morning (-15 degrees) we spent waiting on a bison to wake up. If you’ve never stood outside for 2 hours in -15 degrees waiting on an animal, you should try just to experience it. Anyway, when it finally got up it was worth the wait because he was covered heavily in hoar frost, as were the trees around him. Capturing a bison covered in heavy frost is something you can only get on cold mornings, and I was happy we were able to have that opportunity!

For the next few days we were on the northern range of the park on the lookout for animals. We did manage to find a wolf pack, but they weren’t close enough for photos. But it is always neat to see them in the wild. We saw a number of coyotes, a few moose, a golden eagle, and some very cooperative bighorn sheep. The sheep gave us a good show a couple of times and we were all able to get some nice shots! I really enjoyed the group I had this year and it’s always sad when the week ends and we say goodbye. But I’m confident I will see most of this group again!

After the workshop ended I spent some time with my friends before heading back up to Alberta. I had some car issues (my car does have 320,000 miles on it!) but I got it fixed and made it back home no problem. For the most part my car has been incredible and I trust it to get me anywhere and everywhere! Shortly after getting home we went camping in the Canadian Rockies. Most of the winter was fairly mild, but February was not. We picked the warmest days (in reality it wasn’t warm, it just wasn’t as cold), and camped in -5 degrees. Crazy to think that was the highest low for the month! Like I said, it was a cold month. We had a great time in the Canadian Rockies and got some really nice big horn sheep photos.

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When we got home we thawed out and relaxed a little before preparations for the summer begun. We couldn’t believe that it was already time to start planning for the summer. It really does take a long time to get everything ready for the gallery each summer. Many hours are put into making decisions on what will hang in the gallery and how many to print. And then we also have to complete most of our summer trip plans before the summer because places fill up fast in Alaska in the summer time.

This year we got everything packed and ready to go and left at the beginning of May. It takes a couple days to get there, and driving a trailer that far for that many hours is not very enjoyable. However, along the way we usually see some wildlife, and this year we had a first and got to see wolves! I’ve always wanted to see wolves on the Alaskan highway and hadn’t gotten that chance until this year. We even managed to get some good shots of one the wolves that were curious about us!

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It’s always exciting to set up the gallery every year and see the new photos from the previous year printed. As it goes sometimes, a number of my photos got lost in the mail and didn’t show up for weeks after I had opened. It was painful waiting and not knowing when the photos would get here, but they finally did and I was able to set up the gallery how I envisioned before the summer! It feels great to be back in Alaska and we are ready for the busy, but fun, summer ahead and we have some great trips planned that I look forward to showing you the photos from those trips!

Winter Sheep Snowshoeing

            In early December Twila and I headed off into the Canadian Rockies to look for sheep. We hadn’t had much time to get out and shoot since we got married, and we were really looking forward to our winter camping trip. We had never been to where we were going, so that was exciting too!

            Winter camping in the Canadian Rockies is not for the feint of heart. I’m very excited that my wife enjoys being outside all the time and loves winter! We got to where we were going in the afternoon and did a scouting hike of the area. We found some tracks, but no sheep, but we at least knew they were around. The sun almost beat us down before we got back to the truck. It gets dark around 5 p.m. in the winter, so it makes the part of the day we can photograph much shorter.         

            We got out the cooking stove and make a good pasta dinner, and finished right as it was getting dark. The temperature was dropping fast, now that the sun was down, so we hurried and got everything cleaned up and got in the truck. We had lots of blankets and sleeping bags and got cozy in the truck. It’s hard to keep the face warm in the winter while sleeping, but the rest of us did fine. It’s great to be out camping again!           

            The alarm went off before the sunrise, and it is always so hard to get up in the winter and put cold clothes on. We had made hot water the night before, which was a great call so that we could have hot chocolate to warm us up as we got up! It didn’t take too long to get up and start snowshoeing up the mountain. It was a beautiful morning and we got up the mountain pretty fast. When we got to where we hiked to yesterday, we spotted some sheep off in the distance. After waiting a while, they ended up coming our way and we moved to get in position. It was exciting they were coming to us as there was a large ravine between us and we couldn’t go any closer. They ended up going to the ridge closest to us, and the scene behind them couldn’t have been any better!

            For the next few hours we moved up the mountain on our side of the ravine as they moved. Fortunately, they decided to stay on the ridge for a long time. Blazing a new trail in deep snow while photographing was exhausting. It was fun, and it was the most Twila had ever snow shoed before, but it wore us out. We got really great pictures and had a fun time getting them. We even forgot how cold it was because we were getting nice shots!

           On our way down the mountain that evening Twila managed to find a snowshoe hare. I have looked and looked for them in the daytime for years, and never actually found one. They don’t move in the day much and they blend in so well that they are hard to find. I was very excited to see this hare and for it to not bounce away. It cooperated and just sat there and let us take its picture. So cool to finally photograph a snow shoe hare!

           That night it was considerably colder than the night before. We could see our breath much more prominently, and we knew we would be in for a cold night. It was hard getting out of bed in the morning, but again that hot chocolate was a lifesaver. We think it was colder than 10 degrees when we got up. It makes hiking challenging as well as you can overheat while snowshoeing, but freeze once you get to the top and stop moving. When we got to where we found the sheep yesterday, they were not there, which was not surprising. We ended up snowshoeing and exploring a lot of the area to know more of what to expect the next time we come back. From a higher vantage point we did find some sheep, but they were a very long way away, so we didn’t try to get to them.

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            We got down the mountain in time to drive and explore some more. It was another clear day, and we did find some mountain goats near the road. As the sun went down we also found a couple of real nice scenes over rivers with the sunset. It was a successful winter trip for bighorn, and we look forward to doing it again soon!

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Trying to Relax

            October was just what I needed!  The summer was so busy that I didn’t have time to think about many other aspects of my photography and business.  After closing the gallery, and then photographing the elk rut, I finally had a chance to relax for the first time in months.  I was looking forward to falling back into what I had known as my past, and not having day-to-day responsibilities.  I thoroughly enjoy the freedom my job allows, and the ability to go anywhere at any given time. Before this summer, I was use to photographing, and then taking a break, and then photographing more.  There were no breaks this summer, because when I wasn’t photographing, I was in my gallery in Skagway.  And it will likely be that way for years to come.

            I didn’t realize how much the summer had drained me until I began to fully relax.  I was so caught up in the gallery, and trying to make it successful, that many things fell through the cracks.  I envisioned only needing a short amount of time to be caught up on most things, but I was wrong.  The more I relaxed and looked back on the summer and other needs of my business, the more I realized I had lots to do.  I’m grateful I was able to take a step back and analyze the summer, and my business as a whole, and see how things went and how I would like them to go in the future.

            As my career has changed and progressed, I have enjoyed each new twist and turn.  I’ve never known where I was going to be from year to year, but now that has changed some too.  I will still have many unknown during the fall and winter, but for the spring and summer I will be in Alaska.  I can think of many worst things that being in Alaska, though.

            All that spare time I use to have as I got my business going, is long gone.  I enjoyed all the unknowns and paths that I’ve taken to get to this point in my career, and look forward to the future ones.  I got caught up in this summer, and got away from a couple of thing that has made my career so great.  October allowed me to see that, and to hopefully not have that happen again.  Relaxing and a distressing of the mind were critical for me.  I needed to get back out in nature, and forget about all the other things of the world that catch so many people and don’t let go. 

            I did a fair amount of work in October, but it was the times I didn’t work that made October great.  Exploring new areas and finding new places to photograph is what excites me the most! There is so much area in our great continent to explore and search.  My fiancé recently moved, and spending time with her in the mountains around her area was great!  I did a lot of pre scouting for the winter, and now can’t wait for winter to get here.  It will be exciting to see what winter brings in this new area to me.

A beautiful scene in my new home.

A beautiful scene in my new home.

            On November 10th I hooked the trailer back up and begun the long drive to Tennessee.  I wasn’t looking forward to the three-day drive, but it had to be done.  My truck has started to have a little transmission issues, but I figured I could make it back to TN.  It did fine across the country, thankfully, and after 39 hours of driving I got back to Tennessee.  I have a gallery exhibit in my hometown of Tullahoma that opens on November 19th from 5-7 p.m. at the Fine Art Center.