Scenery and a sandpiper

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Above: The Eastern Alaska Range backdrops the Delta Clear Water, a spring-fed river in Interior Alaska. A small canoe can be seen in the lower third of the photo,

The Delta Clearwater is an Interior Alaska river true to its name: clearwater. An early summer float trip provided astounding views and some small wildlife.

Caribou, Moose, Dall Sheep and Ptarmigan in Trees

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

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. 


iPhone roadtrip: Fairbanks to Whistler

Black & White, Iphone, Landscapes, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

I recently returned home from a road trip through Canada, south through Washington, Oregon and California, then north through Nevada, Utah, Montanan, Washington and Canada again.

Because of the quickness both in taking and sharing pictures I really embraced my camera phone on this trip. This is the first of likely a half-dozen posts chronicling the road trip from my iPhone.

All these were featured on my Instagram account, follow me @rwoodpix to see what other adventures I embark on this summer.

The first leg of the trip was roughly 2000 miles, from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Whistler, British Columbia, to do some snowboarding. This first post features shots from the road.

Bohemian Waxwings in Black And White

Alaska, Black & White, Photography, Wildlife

Hundreds of Bohemian Waxwings flocked in frigid 20 below fahrenheit. I arrived unexpectedly on the scene and realized time was short.

I took five frames. Luckily I was at a very fast shutter speed, so four are nice and crisp. While all four images are fairly similar, they’re stronger as a set. Flowing patterns of birds in flight mixed with minimal tree reference and high contrast make complicated scenes and challenging composition.

In the day of digital photography it’s a great feeling to take only five photos and truly enjoy four. 

Click on any image to view in carousel.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie Spiders

Alaska, Macro, Photography, Weekly Photo Post, Wildlife

Above: The much smaller wolf spider can be seen in the clasp of an orb weaver. 

The weekly photo challenge for Nov. 1 through Nov. 7 is eerie. Of course it was announced just one day after I posted about the Paris Catacombs, which would have fit the bill perfectly. Not uncommon for me to have great ideas ahead of their time. 

So for this challenge I’m heading to the archives. In 2010 I was slowly experimenting with digital – and often forgetting to make sure I was shooting RAW files.

I did have some extension tubes to attach to my old Canon Rebel XTi. Extension tubes increase macro capabilities by moving the lens farther away from the sensor. So when I saw a large orb-weaver spider killing a smaller wolf spider I ran to grab my camera.

Spiders are eerie enough when they aren’t cannibalizing other spiders.

Reservations for one.

Reservations for one.

Securing the pray for later consumption, July 11, 2010.

Securing the prey for later consumption, July 11, 2010.

Redpolls, robin egg, beehives and PRI.

Alaska, Landscapes, Macro, Photography, Wildlife

My old theme had been giving me problems, hence the new appearance.

A very similar story to the subject of this post was on Public Radio International during my drive to UAF: Magpies as pests. The story about how magpies, cousins of the fascinating raven I love  to photograph, are often exterminated because of their aggressive nest-plundering habits. In defense of the magpie it was said other animals, raccoons, squirrels and deer probably steal more eggs. I’ve been unsuccessful finding the podcast, if I do I’ll post it.

In truth it’s just nature, the favorable location or easy meal will get taken.

I have three examples of similar subject matter today: First, a bird home overtaken by bees; second, former chickadee’s nest taken by redpolls; and finally, a scavenged North American Robin egg.

A beehive in a bird house at Creamers Field, late April, 2013.

A beehive in a bird house at Creamers Field, late April, 2013.



Snow flies as a redpoll eyes its nest.


A redpoll warms the eggs, May 17, 2013.

A redpoll warms the eggs, May 17, 2013.


Three of the four light-light blue eggs in a rotting birch tree.

Three of the four light-light blue eggs in a rotting birch tree.


Bright blue and broken.

Bright blue and broken.



Rough-legged Hawk

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Wildlife

It’s May 18, and it snowed in Fairbanks again today. Lovely fall weather we’re having. Such dramatic weather must be hard on wildlife. There has been some crazy bird spectacles, as reported by the Fairbanks News-Miner.

This included, to the best of my knowledge, a Rough-Legged Hawk hanging around Farmers Loop Rd. I got a few opportunities to photograph it, though nothing spectacular it was good practice in an area I have little experience.

A Rough-Legged Hawk hung around Farmers Loop Rd for a few days early in May, 2013.

A Rough-Legged Hawk hung around Farmers Loop Rd for a few days early in May, 2013.


Bicycle Beat: Munching Moose and a May Day Sun Dog

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Street, Wildlife

“Bicycle Beat” is an idea I have wanted to start for some time. And until recently was hindered by winter. Bicycle Beat is my reporting from a bicycle. I have often felt bike riding is the ultimate way to capture great photos. Unlike driving, stopping and turning around is almost instantaneous, and it’s much easier to spot interesting subjects traveling 10 mph rather then 50. Consequently, also much faster then walking, greatly expanding the range of your photographic canvas. Also important is inconspicuous. You draw a lot more attention stopping a car then a bicycle.

I went for a very brief 3-mile bike ride last night and in the short time happened upon two photo-worthy subjects. It’s been a very testy spring in Fairbanks, with multiple inches of snow the last week of May. Greenhouses are opening despite unavailable exterior space. One of them is Plant Kingdom.

Mayday! A sundog is visible on May Day. A sundog is an atmospheric reaction when light deflects off ice crystals in the air, producing a halo effect. They are common to cold weather.

The snow and cold on May 1, producing a sundog, mixed with the open Plant Kingdom sign, is a significant juxtaposition.


A sundog is frames the Plant Kingdom sign on May 1, 2013. It has been one of the coldest springs on record in Interior Alaska.

I slung my camera around my neck and hopped on my bike, only to travel another half-mile before finding another photo.

While I may have stopped a car to take the sundog picture, I never would have seen this young moose right off the bike path. Maybe 15 yards away, it would have been a great opportunity to get a wide-angle shot of a moose. Having a zoom lens however, my first instinct was to zoom in as close as possible. Probably 2 or 3 years old, I did make sure no mother moose was visible before shooting.

A moose munches off Farmers Loop Rd.

A moose munches off Farmers Loop Rd.

Very-Temporary Fossils

Alaska, architecture, Photography, Street, Wildlife

While nothing in Interior Alaska can be considered typical, Fairbanks – typically – isn’t very windy. This winter has brought no shortage of windy days. While occasionally bone-chilling cold, wind also creates exciting conditions. Ravens seem to have fun when currents whip up.

Ravens play in high winds above UAF's Fine Art Complex. April 17, 2013.

Ravens play in high winds above UAF’s Fine Art Complex. April 17, 2013.

The next day, slowly picking my way down a steep, slippery hill, my preferred route between car and classroom, I found evidence some ravens had been using strong winds and currents to their advantage.

Spiraling strike marks decorated the snow’s surface. A raven had been hunting, likely a small rodent. My friend accurately described it as a “very-temporary fossil.” Indeed unlikely the imprint would be preserved more then a day or two.

A hunting raven leaves evidence in the snow, April 18, 2013.

A hunting raven leaves evidence in the snow, April 18, 2013.

At the time I was en route to grab class materials, happy just to spot the strike, I didn’t linger. Deciding to court a safer path back up the hill, my attention was once more drawn toward patterns in the snow. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to photograph another strike mark. Even if it meant going back to my car to swap tennis shoes for boots.

A pedestrian walks up a path at UAF, near a imprint a raven left in the snow, akin to a temporary fossil.

A pedestrian walks up a path at UAF, near a raven imprint in the snow, akin to a temporary fossil.

Close-up of an imprint left by a hunting raven.

Close-up of an imprint left by a hunting raven.

Sporting Thursday: Snowshoe Hair tracks and a Geocache.

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife

Cross-country skiing, either skate or classic, is a great way to exercise and get outside during the long Alaskan winters. Sticking to a groomed trail or breaking your own through the woods both provide ample opportunities for fun sights.

A trip on March 13, traversing trails just north of Fairbanks from my house to a friend’s, had a few hidden surprises.

While stopped to discuss which direction to go I spotted some snowshoe hair tracks off the trail. My shadow provides a little perspective while some unidentified tracks disappear off frame.

Snowshoe hair tracks and shadow.

Snowshoe hair tracks and shadow.

From there we followed what appeared to be a well-tracked snowmachine trail. While continuing to appear well traveled, it quickly delved into a walking only trail, then abruptly stopped in a clearing. Again, while debating our next move, I glanced around, noticing a cache in snow.


After a brief inspection it was discovered to be a geocache. Geocaching is a global game where people upload the longitude and latitude of a cache online for others to find. Inside was a variety of objects: a pipe cutter, crayons, paint, playing cards, a Pez dispenser and a mosquito net to name a few. The rules simply state if you take something you must leave something.


Glad our lives didn’t depend on the contents.


We fell under the “found by accident” category.

The ski was close to 10 miles, and that worked up an appetite. So to finish off “Sporting Thursday” is a picture of a fellow winter adventurer captured while waiting for pizza.

A winter biker casts a long shadow outside Corner Campus Mall, March 13, 2013.

A winter biker casts a long shadow outside Corner Campus Mall, March 13, 2013.