Caribou, Moose, Dall Sheep and Ptarmigan in Trees

Above: Mother moose sheds her winter coat, followed close by a  yearling, Denali National Park, May 2, 2014.

My last post was the scenery I encountered during a long and hilly 50-plus mile bike ride inside Denali National Park. There were multiple large mountain passes, hot temperatures and in my case more then 10 pounds of photo gear. 

I brought along my telephoto, predicting I would regret not taking it. While I probably could have done without, it certainly got me a few wildlife shots. 

Both to my relief and disappointment, there were no bears on this trip. Bears in Denali are common, and traveling solo I didn’t want to see one too close. 

These were far from the only instances I saw wildlife, most were too far away to do anything but acknowledge their presence. 

 

Spectacular Polychrome Pass, Denali National Park

Above: The steep pitch of Polychrome Pass becomes evident when the horizon is set against the slope. May 2, 2014.

Polychrome Pass is a mountain pass named for Polychrome Mountain on the Denali Park Road, the 83-mile out and back road that takes visitors inside Denali National Park. The narrow, steep, winding pass is breathtaking, and steep. 

“Poly” is latin for many and “chrome” is latin for color, so polychrome pass means “many colors.” It’s an appropriate name. Reds, greens, blues, violets, ambers, yellows and browns are just some of the spectrums seen at any given time.  With the addition of sweeping vistas, it’s one of my favorite places in the park. 

According to National Park Service geological information, Polychrome Pass features basalts and rhyolites deposited by volcanic activity 56 million years ago. 

This post will feature some of the many colors and the swirling, striated patterns they create, mixed with grand vistas. 

 

All images were shot during a bicycle trip into Denali National Park on May 2. More to follow.

 

Day Bike in Denali Nat’l Park

Saturday, May 25, a group of friends and I did an out-and-back from Savage River, 12 miles into the park. Completely clear skies allowed the sun and cool air to compliment each other nicely. We split into two groups part-way through, and mine made it a few miles past the mostly frozen Teklanika River. The frozen river is a reminder that weather near the tallest peak in North America is very dynamic.

Savage River, as far as the public is allowed to drive.

Savage River, as far as the public is allowed to drive.

Visitors can bus, bike or simply hike into the park.

Visitors can bus, bike or simply hike into the park.

Snow and melt water were both prevalent, and crews were on hand to try and keep them heading the right directions.

Road work crew.

Road work crew.

This includes keeping culverts clear of ice, which can be a tricky operation.

Deeper then expected.

Deeper then expected.

We started at 11, and biked roughly 50 miles before returning just before 6 p.m. A fantastic time to bike, but difficult time to photograph. But this trip was about having a good time with friends, and we managed to meet up right before the final uphill, before relaxing and snacking at the top.

Left to right: Charlie, Louise, Denali, Nick, Robin and David.

Left to right: Charlie, Louise, Denali, Nick, Robin and David.

Budding pussy willows with Denali in the background.

Budding willows with Denali in the background.

Critter Corner: Mt. Rainier and Georgeson Botanical Garder Frogs

A few weeks ago I posted images of real bears in Denali National Park and a bear statue from UAF’s Georgeson Botanical Garden. Today I’m posting a similar diptych: A frog from Reflection Lake in Mt. Rainier National Park and a frog from the botanical gardens.

The first image the frog is the only subject, he was an itty-bitty frog, maybe half a deck of cards. The mostly brown hues were rather ugly, so I did a quick and dirty desaturation of the image, converting it to black and white. I think the the black and white does a better job accentuating the frog’s natural camouflage. The shadow provides a small amount of depth to the mostly flat image.

The second image I like a lot because of layers. Shooting through a fence, with more fence in the background. The frog is far from the main subject. What’s fun for me is comparing the two subjects, the real frog in nature and the artificial frog in a man-made environment. I enjoy both, though the statue was a little easier to shoot.

© Robin Wood

A frog floats in Reflection Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park

Georgeson Botanical Garden frog statue.

Critter Corner: Three bears and Georgeson Botanical Garden.

Bears, what needs to be said? Large, viscous, cute, curious, smart, omnivorous, powerful and today, wooden. Bears in Denali National Park got a lot of attention this year, when a hiker photographing a grizzly was mauled to death last August. Remarkably, this was the first fatality in the Park’s 95-year history. Bears are incredibly fast, and the estimated “50 yards” between the bear and his victim leaves little room for evasive measures. Keep your distance.

Keeping distance wasn’t a problem during the Denali Park Lottery last September. This Alaskan lottery allows 400 vehicles a day to drive all the way into the park, a trip usually reserved for tour buses. Park Rangers are fast to converge on eager photographers, keeping them safe distances from wildlife.

Please click images to view full size.

Bear gazing over riverbed.

A bear pauses while climbing a steep, rocky slope.

For some slightly different bear action, check out this statue of a bear at UAF’s Georgeson Botanical Garden, the northern-most botanical garden in North America. I hadn’t walked through in awhile, and found lots of lovely sculptures had been added. What originally caught my attention, though hard to see in the picture, was an ear of corn someone had placed in the bears paws, reminding me of the fall harvest.

Georgeson Botanical Garden Wooden Bear

Weekly photo challenge: Solitary

Solitary: being, living or going alone or without companions. The word instantly conjurs images of some distant wayfarer or contemplative individual. For this installment of the Weekly Photo Challenge, I will show you three of my interpretations of solitary, images I believe convey the mood through subject matter and compositional elements.

First: a very literal interpretation of solitary. In Denali National Park, a lone-grazing caribou is seen in vast tundra. I wont even begin to speculate on the distances, however it was shot with a 300MM telephoto lens on a Canon 7D. The importance of the 7D is the smaller APS-C sized sensor increases the 300MM lens to an effective focal length of 480MM! As focal length increases, the depth of a picture is flattened, making the relationships of everything seem closer.

In short, this caribou is very alone.

Please click on the images to view full size.

Lone caribou in Denali National Park, Sept. 16, 2012

My second image is more metaphorically solitary. The model and her shadow are all the viewer has to dwell on. I think her gaze off the edge of the frame, often deemed poor composition because the viewer wonders what the subject is looking at, gives the feeling that there is nothing besides more wall, adding to the solitary feeling. Also helping is the edge of the 4×5 film, terminating any curiosity about what else there may be.

Crystal at Creamers Field

Finally a somber event that would leave anyone feeling solitary. A woman walks past a cutout to honor a victim of domestic violence. The plaque reads,

“Nancy Tegoseak, Age 40, April, 2004. Nancy was born in Tanana and the loving mother of five children. She was beaten to death by her boyfriend. She leaves behind three children.”