Fall around Fairbanks

Above: The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute, with a satellite-receiving dish on the roof, sits tucked among trees as a runner makes her away along trails far below, visibly only by a bright blue jacket. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the boreal forest, that which is found around Interior Alaska, is largest terrestrial ecosystem on earth. 

Interior Alaska’s fall comes fast, and leaves even faster. With only a small variety deciduous trees we don’t get a large variety of color, but the bright yellow leaves among dark green spruce still make dramatic scenes. It can take less than one week for trees to shed their leaves if a hard frost is followed by a strong wind or rain. 

Fantastic Weather, Fun Skiing in Fairbanks.

Above: Snow-covered spruce trees lead to a hill north of Fairbanks briefly blanketed by the golden glow of sunrise.

While much of North America is recovering from the recent polar vortex, Fairbanks has been experience lovely weather. Temperatures were above zero degrees fahrenheit for much of December and January, including plenty of balmy days up into the 20-degree range. Not to say we haven’t had cold weather – last weekend was 40-below – but it has felt pretty mild so far.

All that warm weather was ideal for cross-country skiing. Nordic skiing is easily one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors while getting a killer workout.

One of the outings was directed toward a frozen pond (in the summer nothing more then a swamp,) overlooked by a old cabin on the bank. Whispery clouds provided a canvas for the pink and orange sunset to blanket.

An old cabin at sunset just north of Fairbanks Alaska, Jan. 2, 2014

An old cabin at sunset just north of Fairbanks Alaska, Jan. 2, 2014

Closeup of an old cabin.

Closeup of an old cabin.

 

Beginning of Ski Season – Weekly Photo Challenge

Above: A quiet and foggy beginning to the 2013-2014 season at Skiland. December 7, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.

December 7, 2013, marked the start of the downhill season at Skiland – the farthest-north chairlift in North America. Opening day is often a mad dash; wake up after a party; corral people, some gear, and grub; then try to get there for first run at 10 a.m., because last run comes quick at 2:30 p.m.

This year was relaxed, waxed boards the night before and went to bed at a reasonable time. The next day lots of clouds made visibility difficult, but unseasonably warm temperatures – over 10 degrees fahrenheit – complemented  a snowpack that hide reasonable numbers of rocks! 

Not much lifts the spirits in dark and typically cold December then an early opening at the downhill. Here’s a few examples of rapidly-changing light from the chairlift. 

Colorful Seattle Streets

Above: Walking the docks at sunset in Washington Park Arboretum.

It’s time for a few more pictures form the streets of Seattle, featuring some fantastic fall colors. Not much to say about these – just an exercise in editing and blogging!

Vibrant leafs expand across the frame as a couple enjoys a walk near the Ballard Locks.

Vibrant leafs expand across the frame as a couple enjoys a walk near the Ballard Locks.

Canoeing around - Washington Park Arboretum, Oct. 13, 2013.

Canoeing around – Washington Park Arboretum, Oct. 13, 2013.

Old yellow stables at Discovery Park.

Old yellow stables at Discovery Park.

Taking a sunset run on the docks at the arboretum.

Taking a sunset run on the docks at the arboretum.

Litte Daylight, Cold Temperatures, A Long Ski.

Above: At 10:28 a.m. the sun has yet to rise above tree line, snow can be seen blowing off peaks in the Alaska Range. Elliott Highway, 37 miles north of Fairbanks. 

It was an… ambitious adventure. Nordic ski 14 miles into Colorado Creek Cabin, in White Mountains National Recreation Area, starting about 55 miles north of Fairbanks. Distance wasn’t the issue. The problem at hand was twofold: temperatures around -35 degrees fahrenheit, and less then 5 hours of daylight. Stopping more then 2 or 3 minutes meant quickly becoming chilled, and wasting precious daylight. 

It’s fascinating to review the time-of-day pictures were shot, tracing the sun path.

At exactly noon, the sun is already hidden behind some trees, with a frozen lake in the foreground.

At exactly noon the sun is already hidden behind trees, with a frozen pond in the foreground.

At 12:16 p.m. some of the only direct sunlight to be had.

At 12:16 p.m. some of the only direct sunlight to be had.

Nick pauses partway into a long uphill on a cold cross-country ski.

Nick pauses partway into a long uphill on a cold cross-country ski.

Sporting thick  fur mittens and hauling a moose skull, the only person we encountered on the 6-hour ski said “you have a ways to go.” Taken 2:21p.m., Nov. 30, 2013.

By the time darkness really took hold Nick and I had just slogged up the final ascent. I was far too exhausted to stop and fumble with my camera, and risk chilling off again.

When not sleeping or eating the cabin was a blast, but the next day brought another 14-mile ski back. Luckily the return was all downhill. 

Even two weeks later, as my blisters and frostbite continue to heal I wonder why we thought it would be a good idea. It really comes down to mind over matter, living in Alaska requires perseverance and toughness. Sometimes a little personal reminder is necessary. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers

Above: The silhouette of a tree creates abstract patterns as colors cascade across Green Lake in Seattle, WA.

Using layers effectively can be a powerful way to captivate an audience. The effect of taking a three-dimensional scene and rendering it two-dimensional can be greatly minimized by offering multiple layers as focal plains to create depth.

An easy trick to think about is having something in the foreground, mid ground and background. Shoot through objects like fences, window frames or tree limbs to instantly add depth. Clouds, fog and mist all help individual layers stand out from each other, and adding a reflection can quickly increase depth.

WindowSeat

The edge of a window, clouds and shoreline make for three very distinct layers.

Reflections and multiple rooms with varied lighting create a confusing set of layers.

Multiple rooms with varied lighting and window reflections create a confusing set of layers.

Foreground, mid ground and background to create layers, with complementary colors to boot!

Calm Before the Storm

Above: A strange system moves in prior to a strong winter storm, seen from University of Alaska Fairbanks.

A storm that blew into Interior Alaska recently brought with it snow, rain, strong winds, three days of closed public schools and left an estimated 14,000 people without power, heat or both. An article from the local News-Miner has more details along with photos of toppled trees.

The dramatic-sounding storm wasn’t as bad as the front that hit western-Alaska towns. And certainly nothing compared to recent Typhoon Haiyan that ripped apart the Philippines, a monumental tragedy.

My photographs are from the night before the storm, and rather unusual for Fairbanks.

A streetlight obscured by trees blends fog nicely into the frame.

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FoggyEve'

A streetlight obscured by trees blends fog into the frame.