Fantastic Weather, Fun Skiing in Fairbanks.

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Sports, Travel

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.

 

Beautiful Burgundy Bike – Sunset Scenery

architecture, Landscapes, Photography, Sports, Street, Travel

Above: A tree silhouetted amongst wheat fields at sunset, Bourgognes region, France. 

It’s time for the third and final installment of the bike through Bourgognes region of france. Part One portrayed some of the many small villages and vast vineyards. Part Two  took a closer look at some of the facades of rural French architecture. Today we’ll take another look at Rochepot Castle, some dramatic scenery during a stunning sunset, and a  few more looks at grape vines. 

Unfortunately my Alaskan blood deals poorly with warm temperatures. The three liters of water I took was insufficient for 22 miles, and by the end I didn’t have any fluids to sweat out. The result was a suspected case of heat shock. All in all nothing too serious, does make me glad we waited to start the bike until afternoon when it was cooling off, rather then heating up in the morning. 

Beginning of Ski Season – Weekly Photo Challenge

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Sports, Weekly Photo Post

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. 

Litte Daylight, Cold Temperatures, A Long Ski.

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Portraits, Sports, Travel

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. 

2013 GCI Open North American Championships.

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Sports

The GCI Open North American Championship is a three-day dog-sled race, that starts and finishes in downtown Fairbanks. The course takes leads them to the Chena River and Noyes Slough before depositing racers into the extensive trail network north of Fairbanks. Weather couldn’t have been better.

I met up with the mushers at Creamers Field, one of my go-to places for photography. Today, like most days at Creamers, I focused with film. With luck it may get develop in a timely manner.

Trucking through Creamers Field. Sat. March 16, 2013

Trucking through Creamers Field. Sat. March 16, 2013

Perhaps tomorrow I will focus on the downtown spectacle while shooting a little more digital.

Sporting Thursday: Nanook Hockey Playoffs

Alaska, Photography, Sports

It’s time for another inauguration of another theme, Sporting Thursday. Having an active lifestyle has always been important to me, it’s only natural I should continue that through my photography. For todays first post of Sporting Thursday, we travel to the Carlson Center, Fairbanks, Alaska, for the first round of the soon-to-be defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association, where the Michigan State Spartans traveled to play the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks. 

Friday, March 8, was a intense, low scoring game. Despite the Nanooks 35-15 shot on goal advantage, 3 minutes into overtime, MSU’s Matt DeBlouw slipped the puck past Nanook goaltender John Keeney.

The image I have of DeBlouw’s game-winning goal is an interesting thought experiment. Occasionally the discussion of sport-journalists acting as cheerleaders arises. In this particular instance I had positioned myself in hopes UAF scored the overtime goal, a better angle then if MSU did. As we know MSU scored first, had I kept a neutral position it’s likely I would have a cleaner image with the puck easier to see. Of course, sports are unpredictable, and would-be images frequently happen out of range or obstructed.

This cheerleading mentality can also manifest in war reporters. Stories get edited, or completely untold, to protect the reputation of the military. That is not something I have experienced, and a discussion for another post.

UAF goalie John Keeney realizes the game is over after MSU scores in overtime.

A good chance goes without a goal for UAF's Trevor Campbell

A good chance goes without a goal for UAF’s Trevor Campbell

The Nanooks won Saturday, I game I did not attend, 4-1, forcing a deciding game three on Sunday.

I showed up sometime in the second period, the score tied 1-1. Within five minutes MSU went up 3-1, both goals I may have got a good shot of, if I had been ready. Also within that five minutes two players broke some glass, causing over 20 minutes in delay. MSU then went up 4-1, and the game ended 4-3, with UAF being done for the season.

UAF goalie John Keeney hangs his head after MSU scores their 4th, and ultimately game-winning goal.

UAF goalie John Keeney hangs his head after MSU scores their 4th, and ultimately game-winning goal.

Broken glass created a lengthy game delay in the second period.

Broken glass created a lengthy game delay in the second period.

‘Tis the season to ski: Nat’ Geo’ Extreme Photo of the Week and more.

Alaska, Black & White, Photography, Portraits, Sports

First things first: A huge shout out to my friend and fellow (former) Fairbanks resident, Luke Smith, who is the skier in this weeks National Geographic Extreme Photo of the Week. Photographer Ryan Kruger captured Luke skiing Frazier Basin, Bridger Range, Montana.

Here’s the image, click the link above to see the full story. I especially like the delay between the initial viewing and noticing the skier, and of course, the monochromatic image.

luke-smith-frazier-basin_64842_600x450

photo by Ryan Krueger

Photographing skiing and snowboarding is a very delicate balance for me. Often my love for snowboarding overpowers my desire to take photos on the hill.  It’s easy to worry about my camera, ducking under and squeezing through trees at Skiland, where I ride, and the fartherst north chairlift in North America.

I am becomming more comfortable with it though. The hardest part is forcing myself to be less agressive while riding.

While neither of my photos offer the extreme enviornment of Krueger’s, they have their own qualities. Both with a strong sense of light, the Sun peeking out behind my friends Nils and Nick in the first, illuminated hoar frost on the lift in the second. The first image is also a pan shot, my movement, parallel with the subjects, keeps them in focus while blurring the background.

Nick and Nils gather speed for the traverse at Mt. Aurora Skidland.

Nick and Nils gather speed for the traverse at Mt. Aurora Skiland.

Hoar frost on an early morning chairlift ride.

Hoar frost and an Alyeska sticker on a chilly, early morning chairlift ride.

Digital, hiking Granite Tors and a candle

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Portraits, Sports, Travel

Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth. Photographic tastes are fickle, and after saying film is a major part of my aesthetic I decide to go more digital. There are many reasons, but I’m not trying to get too personal in this blog. One of the primary reasons: film’s magic for me is black and white. The film is cheaper and I can process it myself. But sometimes I just want to see the world in color. Another reason: to make steady money with photography while possible shooting film, one need’s a very well established name. The final reason is, in all fairness, probably the most important, ISO. Also known as ASA or simply film speed, it is a rating of sensitivity to light. Digital cameras can shoot at such high ISOs (6,400 and above) film cant hold a grain to it.

So I splurged, bought my first unused camera, but thanks to a combination of reward points the bill was cut more then fifty percent. Here are two pictures from my first few rounds of shooting.

Patrick left and David right, Granite Tors east of Fairbanks.

The picture above was taken at Granite Tors, a popular climbing destination and fifteen mile hike outside of Fairbanks. What I like about this picture is scale. The far horizon is balanced by the climber in the foreground. Then after viewing the second hiker a sense of elevation is really present.

A candle burns during a rain storm.

Humans see in color, and despite my love for black and white color makes, or breaks, many photos. In this image the strong monochrome and repetitive circles ground the viewer, while the abstract composition makes them wonder if they’re looking at a celestial formation.

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Yukon Quest

Alaska, Photography, Sports

The Quest is off an running. Each year the start alternates between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, this year it was in Fairbanks. Sadly, due to a very amateur mistake while I was attempting to shoot film at the start I only have a few digital files to work with. Thankfully it’s easy to shoot a lot of digital pictures very quickly, so I got some frames to work with. There’s lots of places to follow the Quest, my Extreme Alaska class is running a storify feed.

Marcelle Fressineau, a rookie from Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada comes out of the gate during the 2012 Yukon Quest.

Hugh Neff of Tok, Alaska, shoots out of the starting gate waving an Alaskan Flag on the Chena River during the 2012 Yukon Quest.