Friday, May 02, 2008

Alaska's vast natural beauty will beckon many photographers this summer

"I hope my timing for this story is right," says veteran outdoor stock photographer Jon Cornforth. "As I write this, I am on a flight to Juneau and finally having time to put together a story that might be of special interest to those planning -- or dreaming about -- their own journeys to Alaska this summer.

"I have been traveling to Alaska every year for over 5 years now. That's long enough to realize there are a lifetime's worth of adventures yet to be experienced here. Whether it is your first visit or your 10th, every visit will put you at the mercy of the weather, which of course makes for some truly incredible photo opportunities. Here are three images from locations that many serious photographers will be visiting this summer -- along with a few comments on how each of these images was created.

"This first image was captured during a trip to McNeil River Sanctuary several years ago. I was attracted to the area by its unparalleled opportunities to photograph brown bears up close in their natural setting. As readers may recall from my previous posts, I still shoot my landscape images using medium format slide film. When the float-plane pilot asked me at the last minute to shed some weight from my very heavy camera bags, I accidentally left behind all of my medium format film -- except for 4 rolls. Once I realized my mistake, it was too late. I woke up every morning for a week to mostly terrible rain and clouds, so I did not shoot any landscape scenes until my very last sunrise, when I was rewarded with these incredible clouds over the Katmai mountains. I captured this image at that exciting moment using my Singh-Ray 3-stop hard-step Graduated ND filter.

"On my first visit to Denali National Park -- specifically to photograph Mt McKinley from Wonder Lake -- I spent 14 days getting rained on and only saw the mountain on one afternoon. Determined to create a beautiful image of the mountain, I returned the following August for another go at the mountain for 10 more days. If you camp at Wonder Lake, try to plan your trip for the very last week of August, which is usually the peak of the fall colors on the tundra. Also, try and rent a mountain bike so that you can get up early enough to ride several miles along the park road to get in place by sunrise. The classic view of the mountain is about 5 miles from the campground, so you'll really appreciate having that bike. Fortunately on my second trip, I got a chance to see and photograph the mountain several mornings, but not at sunset until my very last night when I was finally rewarded with this image.

I have had a lot of success selling this image to several regional and national publishers, as you can see by the 2009 Denali Wilderness calendar published by Greatland Graphics. I captured this image with my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and a 2-stop hard-step Graduated ND filter.

"To capture this third image at Johns Hopkins Inlet in 2007, I purchased a small 22-foot C-Dory which I motored from my home in Seattle north on the Inside Passage to Alaska for the summer. I had such a great experience, that I decided to leave my boat in Juneau for the winter, so that I could get a jump on the summer starting the next April.

Well, the last 8 months have flown by and it is now my first trip of the summer. My plan for this trip is to get back into some of the most remote spots in Glacier Bay National Park for the next 2 weeks. The weather forecast is currently looking pretty favorable, but that can change in a minute up here. One of my favorite locations inside Glacier Bay is Johns Hopkins Inlet. If you are on a big cruise ship, you'll have to be content with the photos from the ship's deck, but if you are on a smaller cruise ship or have your own boat like I do, try to plan your visit to spend the night in Reid Inlet in front of the Reid Glacier. In the early morning, use an inflatable boat to land in front of the Lamplugh Glacier at low tide in time to photograph the stranded icebergs on the beach at sunrise. I spent a week of trying before I succeeded in creating this image last August. I used my Singh-Ray 2-stop hard-step Graduated ND filter. I can only hope that during this current trip I will again see some nice light like this.

"I'm also looking forward to the absence of other people where I am going. At this time of year, Alaska should still look like winter with the mountains covered in snow from sea to summit. I'll be posting new images on the News page of my website in the coming weeks, so please take time to visit and follow my summer adventure on the Inside Passage."


Andrea Moro said...

I've just added your website at my favourites. These photographs are simply amazing! A perfect light and a fine shooting technique with filters is the best way to obtain great landscapes!

Andrea (from Italy)

chandsa said...

Great pictures!! I have to agree with you 100% about being at the mercy of Mother Nature (weather) when photographing in AK. When I visited Denali NP I was hoping to catch the mountain in all its glory, but unfortunately the clouds wouldn't let us take in the grand view. Hopefully when I am there next time I will get lucky :)..