Year of the Lynx!

The drive from Skagway to Denali is a long 14 hours. It is a beautiful drive through the Yukon and parts of Alaska, but still long. Twila was with me for the drive and that makes it go by faster and not seem as long. When we got to Denali we set up camp and got ready for the next week of looking for moose and other animals in the fall.

            Before we arrived it had rained every day and for most of the days. Out photo friends who were already there were very tired of the rain and ready to get out and go hiking. We didn’t hike our first day as we were still tired from the drive, but we really didn’t find much just driving the road. It was nicer the next day and we were ready to hike. There is an area where I know caribou to be at more than other places, and as we were hiking to it one went running by us. It had no intention of stopping and ran right by us. We found another caribou not too much longer afterward and it was much calmer. We didn’t get to spend too much time with it as a fly irritated it, but before it left we were able to capture it with Denali behind it! 

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            The moose weren’t really cooperating and the fall colors were late to arrive. That happens all the time in nature, as we can’t control how and when things happen, we just have to be there when it does. We were seeing moose, but only small males and a few females. There was an area I really wanted to hike to and check out, but I had never been there and it was a long hike. After not much success elsewhere, Twila and I decided to do the hike. It was well worth the hike! It was the best day we had with moose. We ended up finding a couple of nice bull-moose in an open area and the fall colors were better in that area too. After spending time with them we kept hiking and ended up finding another nice bull moose. We really did hike all over the place, and hiking in the tundra is hard and tiring, and it was fun finding different moose and getting great photos!

            We were tempted to hike out to the same place the next day, but our legs were very tired and it was raining. It ended up being a great decision not to hike, as some friends of ours found a few great horned owls and a couple of them sat in a perfect yellow fall tree! The owls were awesome and I had never gotten to photograph great horned owls in Denali before. And that they decided to sit in the one yellow tree in the forest was even better.

            Overall there might not have been tons of action going on for our trip, but we found and had some incredible moments. The day after the owls we really didn’t find anything, but that all changed late in the day. A mother and baby lynx!!! The tundra makes it very difficult to photograph a lynx because they disappear immediately in the tundra. After numerous attempts and lots of trouble to continue finding them in the tundra, I had one opportunity to photograph one of the kittens and got it! I, of course, wanted more but getting any shot of a lynx kitten is awesome!

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Driving back to Skagway I just got into a zone and was looking forward to being done driving. Many hours into the trip I saw the back end of an animal go into the woods. I thought it might be a lynx, so we stopped and checked it out. After a few attempts to find it, I walked in at a different spot and our eyes locked. What a moment! Finding a wild lynx sitting still watching me was incredible! Twila was with me and we got some incredible photos! Once it left the area it chased a squirrel and we were able to capture it with the beautiful fall colors behind it. We both got incredible photos, photos you never expect to get of wild lynx! The rest of the way back to Skagway felt like it didn’t take long because we were

Best Denali Trip Ever!

Every year I look forward to going to Denali. Most places I photograph have one or two animals I can photograph in that area, but Denali is different. I will go with a certain animal I want to photograph, but there are also 3-4 other animals I can photograph if I’m not finding the animal I am wanting the most. So it’s exciting because I just never know what I will find.

Denali has some of the largest moose in the world, and it’s always exciting finding a monster. The problem is, the terrain is so vast that these huge moose blend into the environment. The entire first day Twila and I looked and looked for moose and our eyes hurt from scanning the terrain looking for moose. As we were leaving in the late evening to maybe find something else before dark, I spotted a moose off in the distance. It was not in an easy area to get to, but he looked big and we were determined. When we got to him, there was another bull moose there as well, and that was awesome. It may have been my best shoot ever with moose because of the light and the different shots we were able to get!

After getting such great moose shots the night before, I wasn’t too worried finding some the next day. It’s such a great feeling when I am able to get great shots on the first day and I can then focus on other photos I am wanting to get. We still looked for moose, and we found some, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the night before. We spent more of the day looking for bears, and finally had a great opportunity with a mother and her spring cubs coming up a river drainage right to us. Denali is huge, and I haven’t had many opportunities with cubs in the park, so I was excited about getting good cub photos in Denali.

The weather was not good the next morning, so we looked for different animals, and we were rewarded for that decision. I’m not going to write in detail about our incredible experience, and truly an experience I never thought I would get to have, but I will share a few photos of the wolf pups we were able to photograph! It truly was so special and I never thought I would get the chance to photograph wolf pups, but I did!!!

When we weren’t watching or waiting on the wolf pups, we photographed the landscapes of the park. One super early morning we even found a lynx (Twila’s first lynx!) and were able to get a few photos of it before it disappeared.

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This was my best trip to Denali, and I have taken so many trips to Denali. It seemed like every day we were getting shots that were incredible! That is not normal. For a week trip if I can get two days that I get great shots I consider it a great trip, so for every day to be getting great shots, it truly was an incredible trip! I can’t wait to be back in Denali in a couple of weeks for more opportunities.

 

Lynx and Lake Clark!

        Where to start… This summer is absolutely flying by and I can’t believe it is mid July already. Lots has happened this summer, and I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write about it. Opening the gallery is always a big task and it took a long time to get everything exactly the way I wanted and running smoothly. I spent most of May at the gallery, and then in mid June I left to go to Lake Clark and lead my two workshops there.

        While on my 14-hour drive to Anchorage, I was ready to stop at night and continue the next day, but I drove a little further, and my goodness am I glad I did. Around 10 p.m. I saw something cross the road a good ways in front of me, and when I slowed down in that area to see what it was, I spotted a lynx! I have been looking for lynx very seriously the past few years and my only sightings were very brief. So I jammed my car in gear and jumped out. It sat there and looked at me for a few seconds before getting scared by some trucks driving by. It was gone way to fast. Thankfully, it didn’t keep running and stopped on the edge of the woods further away. It slowly came back out and allowed me to photograph it for a while in perfect light! Not only was I photographing a lynx, but it was in perfect light! It truly was an amazing experience and one I will never forget! So glad I decided to drive a little further that night!

        The next day I got to Anchorage and did a few errands before meeting with my workshop group. I was excited to get back out to Lake Clark and photograph the bears. On June 15 we left Anchorage at 8 a.m. and flew to Lake Clark National Park. It’s always exciting being back in Lake Clark, and I love just being there photographing and being off the grid. Soon after we arrived we were out photographing the bears. Showing a new group the area and the bears of the area is always a good time.

        Throughout the course of the next 5 days we had some really great photo opportunities. It did decide to rain on us a lot that week, but I had a great group who wasn’t deterred by the rain and we still went out the good majority of each day. I was proud of my group, and we were rewarded by the bears for being out in the rain. Watching a mother bear and her yearling cubs on a daily basis never gets old. We even took an afternoon to go photograph puffins, and we had a great time doing that. And when we came back on the boat, the mom and cubs greeted us and put on a show just off the boat on the shore! I had never gotten to photograph a red fox there before, and a couple foxes gave us a few opportunities.

        There are too many things to write about, so here are the photos from my first week that show what we got to see!

        On June 20th, my next group arrived and my first group left on the same planes. My wife, Twila, was on one of those planes and I was so excited to get to show her and the others the bears of Lake Clark. The rain still didn’t stop for the first couple of days of this week. I was done with the rain and ready for it to be over. It finally did on our third day, and it was nice to not have to wear a rain jacket or put a rain cover on my camera.

        The bears of Lake Clark never get old to me. Getting to be out in the wild photographing bears in their natural environment in a close proximity is amazing! We never know what we are going to encounter when we go out, but almost always it is good. On our last evening we were treated with a scene out of a movie, except we got to watch it unfold. The mother and her two cubs kept moving along a little creek, not noticing a young male. One cub got to close to the male and it moved toward the cub in curiosity. Once the mom and cub saw the other bear, the cub took off and didn’t slow down for a very long time. The mom would run and stand to see if the male was still coming, and it was, so the family would run some more. The family made it safely away, and was quite the scene to get to see and photograph! The wider shot of the scene is Twila's! She did a great job capturing the moment!

        The next morning we flew back to Anchorage and then a few of us took a trip to photograph sea life the next day. I will post those photos in the next blog. Lake Clark was truly a great time with both groups and I am already looking forward to going back next year!