Saturday, October 9, 2010

Denali, Day and Night

Both of the images are High Dynamic Range (HDR) that represents most of the visible world, therefore some what you see may be bit unnatural. I did the HDR using Photomatix 3 Pro. Then I opened them in Photoshop CS5, cropped them, applied curves to correct colors and finally sharpening. The above image was taken at Wonder Lake, near Mile 85 of the Denali Park Road. While I was there taking the images, another photographer stopped to tell how lucky I was; he has been coming here for the last 27 years and never seen Mount McKinley so clear, not a cloud in the sky. Maybe I was lucky twice; I also won the Denali Lotto which permits winners to drive their own vehicles for a day inside the park beyond Milepost 15. This is allowed once a year at the end of the season for about 4 days. Other than on this occasion, one has to ride a bus past the gate at Milepost 15 at the Savage River Bridge. Due to the restrictions of the blog, I was unable to properly size the images but if you click on them, a larger image may be available depending in your settings.

What you see above are the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis taken near Denali. This image is also HDR but with a different twist. When using HDR, one changes the exposures to obtain more detail of the dark and light areas of an image. In this case, I did not change the exposures but I rather used time intervals to capture the changes in the lights, as they expanded and contracted across the sky. This technique may be called stacking by some. Since I could not cover the lights across the sky using a 16-35 mm lens set a 16 mm, I used another secret trick of mine (well not secret any more after you read this). I just set the camera in the tripod with the lower left corner and the upper right corners of the viewing frame aligned with the horizon. So I am really splitting the frame with an imaginative diagonal line and aligning that line with the horizon, then I crop a bit the ends to make image rectangular. The University of Alaska has a website that predicts the probability of seen the northern lights ( and I relied on it to wake up in the middle of the night and search for them. It worked for the night when this image was taken. While at ANWAR, where the photos of the bears of the previous blog were taken, this site showed very poor probabilities of seen them so to bed I went. When I woke up the next morning, the first thing the guide tells me is about the extraordinary northen lights seen that night. These were in the form of waving colorful curtains that cover most of the sky. So when I asked him why he did not wake me up, he responded : "You told me that you came to see Polar bears."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Polar Bears

After traveling more than 10,000 miles by land, air and sea, I am back in Virginia after meeting with Polar Bears in the Alaska National Wildlife Arctic Refuge (ANWAR). They are the ultimate predators and being close to them with not protection, other than a guide with a weapon was unnerving. Although I have been in the proximity of lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards in Africa, there I was sheltered by a vehicle that could speed away from danger. In ANWAR, I was on foot on land with no chance to outrun the bears, they can do 30 miles per hour; more than than the 5 that I can achieve over a short distance. The outcome is obvious.

I saw about twenty bears, with several females having 2 cubs each, do not know is that is the usual number. On one occasion, one family approached in an inquisitive manner since I am still here; if the mom who have wanted to provide the cubs with a dinner, I would not be here writing this blog.

One of the cubs was extremely curious and came within 20 feet and performed by standing in its feet and moving the arms as umpire signaling in a football game. Another found a white feather, which it examined closer and then started playing with it.

While searching of the bears in a small boat, ran into two bears swimming and was able to photograph them. They showed not interest and continue on their way. These animals are large and can swim hundreds of miles, one raised its body about 3 feet above the water to look around. I am quite sure that if they wanted, they could have come aboard the boat or turned it over and get meals inside. I had been many places with wild animals, but no where with the level or risk or excitement that I had here.