Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kayak-cicles: Day 93

Remnants of freezing rain growing on the underside of my kayak. Although slushy snow and abundant sunshine give the illusion that spring is just around the corner, I don't think I will be going for a paddle anytime soon.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/8 @ 1/500 sec.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Back On The Trail: Day 92

Yesterday I took Reef on his first trail walk since he tweaked his back a few weeks ago. He was so eager to check out every bend in the path that he became very impatient whenever I paused to listen for birds, as in this photo. His excitement peaked when we were passed by four dog sled teams enjoying the warmer weather. As they flew by Reef gave me the "What the hell was that ?" look, and then proceeded to charge up and down the trail like a maniac. Time to break out the pain killers again.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-400 f/5.6 @ 1/1000 sec.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Catkins: Day 91

These are seed bearing catkins from an Alaska Birch (Betula neoalaskana), illuminated by our now brilliant morning light. Redpols in particular thrive on birch catkins, littering the white forest floor with brown seed casings as they swarm through the canopy.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM + Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II. ISO-800 f/5 @ 1/100 sec.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cloudy With A Chance Of Aurora: Day 90

Solar wind is once brushing past earth's atmosphere, however cloudy snow laden skies are obscuring our view of the lights here in Fairbanks. Luckily I have plenty of photos from the last big three-night show.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1250 f/4 @ 20 sec.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Freezing Rain: Day 89

These are strange times for weather up here near the arctic. A persistent high pressure ridge continues to loom over the North Pacific, bringing severe drought to the west and significantly warmer temperatures to Alaska. So warm in fact that it rained this past weekend in Fairbanks, during what should be the coldest month of the year. It's snowing again this morning, but with temperatures just barely below freezing, this new snow is at risk of becoming another layer of ice.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-800 f/5.6 @ 1/500 sec.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Back To The Banks: Day 88

Juneau: It was fun while it lasted.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/11 @ 1/250 sec.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ice Cave: Day 87

We discovered a massive ice cave on our hike to Mendenhall Glacier.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/7.1 @ 1/1250 sec.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mendenhall Glacier: Day 86

Glaciers are the form of ice we are glad to see on our brief vacation from frozen water. This is Mendenhall Glacier, located just outside of the state's humble capital of Juneau in Southeast Alaska.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-200 f/13 @ 1/320 sec.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Southeast: Day 85

Feels good to be by the ocean again, if only temporarily.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/14 @ 1/250 sec.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Better Than Fireworks: Day 84

The only things missing from this photo are a bowl of popcorn and beer... and maybe some friends. Aurora borealis: the greatest show on earth. I just can't get enough of it. Temperatures have warmed up significantly, almost positive 40° F in the hills during the day, which makes lounging along the side of a summit pass road in the middle of the night pretty easy. Especially when the lights are as good as they've been the past few nights.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1000 f/4 @ 15 sec.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Multicolored Aurora: Day 83

Our planet is currently passing through a river of solar wind that is spewing from a gaping hole in the sun, lighting up the northern skies with dazzling displays of aurora over the past few nights. While we could only see long curtains of green with subtle pinks, my camera set to a high ISO and long shutter speed revealed a rainbow of hidden colors. The geomagnetic storms were so strong my camera picked up multicolored displays of pinks, reds, and purples. Forecasters are calling for the auroras to continue into tomorrow morning for those living in higher latitudes.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-2500 f/4 @ 20 sec.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Yukon Quest Arrives: Day 82

There we stood peering into the woods, at the terminus of a 1,000 mile long historic trail, waiting with anticipation. The first two dog sled teams of the annual Yukon Quest, the front-runner Brent Sass with Allen Moore in close pursuit, finally arrived in Fairbanks late last night after a grueling ten day competition. The Yukon Quest is an international dog sled race developed by local mushers who wanted to honor the Yukon River, a frozen"highway to the north" that allowed passage to the famed Klondike goldfields during the early 1900's. A total of 25 teams left Whitehorse Canada on February 7th, and have endured frigid sub-zero temperatures, piercing high winds, long nights, and even a charging bull moose. Yesterday, Casey and I drove up Chena Hotsprings Road to a trail crossing to catch a glimpse of the teams on their final 45 mile leg to Fairbanks. Sass held a commanding lead for most of the race, as much as ten hours ahead at one point, but overslept by nine hours on the trail and found himself two minutes behind Moore at the Two Rivers checkpoint. Moore and his 13 dogs  (pictured here) were a mere minute or so behind Sass when they passed us, but in the end Sass regained a comfortable lead and took first place; arriving in Fairbanks along the Chena River around 10:52 pm last night.

Check out live tracking of the race HERE as the final mushers make their way to the finish line.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-6400 f/5.6 @ 1/320 sec.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Open Space: Day 81

High winds atop Murphy Dome keep these weathered granite plutons free of snow and exposed to the elements.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-800 f/20 @ 1/250 sec.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

City Lights: Day 80

Despite the bright lights of Fairbanks and a full moon night, the aurora shows through.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/4 @ 8 sec.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Some Sap: Day 79

I took this picture last year as part of a collaborative gift to a friend, and it seems appropriate for today's post.

Canon EOS 60D, Bower 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye CS, ISO-1600 f/3.5 @ 1/40 sec.

Friday, February 13, 2015

He's Not A Kid Anymore: Day 78

Good news: Reef's joints, bones, and teeth all look great for a dog his age. Bad news: x-rays are not cheap. With the recent cold snaps, Reef has been wearing fleece booties to keep his paws warm on our daily walks. Naturally he hates them. So when it warmed up enough for a booty-less walk the other day, Reef went berserk in the snow and ran full speed down our back road. A few hours later his age caught up with him. He did not want to put much weight on his hind legs and refused to climb any stairs. I think it might be the first time I've heard him whimper...ever. Well except for that one time I slammed his tail in the car door. Long story short I took him to the vet and he gave a strong reaction to pressure being applied to his lower spine - he nearly bit the vet's head off. X-rays revealed very little-to-no arthritis growth or signs of a torn tendon, but did show a possible swelling of the disk between the L7 (lumbar) vertebra and the sacrum (the space just after the fifth vertebra from the left of frame). Hopefully with rest and some anti-inflammatory pills he and I can avoid the next step, an expensive visit to the MRI.

Unknown X-ray machine, ISO-I'm not sure, f/ doesn't apply, probably happened really fast.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Redpoll: Day 77

Every morning just after sunrise, the otherwise dormant bare birch trees that surround our cabin, burst to life with the trills and flickering of redpolls. Thousands of these small energetic birds invade the forest canopy, shaking the seeds from birch catkins and stuffing them in their stretchy throat pouches. Mixed flocks of both Common and Hoary Redpolls have been around all season, but their numbers have certainly increased as winter slowly turns to spring. Amazingly these small birds can thrive in temperatures below -50° F, by increasing their insulating plumage and tunneling into the snow at night. Now wouldn't that just be an adorable sight to stumble upon, a tunnel of downy redpolls.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-640 f/5.6 @ 1/320 sec.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rat Nest: Day 76

We are back out of the negatives, it is now a whopping 1° F outside. We've discovered that when it's consistently below -15° out, our heater has a difficult time keeping up with the gaps in the insulation of our cabin, and the plumbing begins to freeze. So far our shower drain, both hot and cold shower water, and the cold water for the washing machine, have all frozen on multiple occasions. The plumbing is very narrow in diameter, so it typically only takes about 10 minutes of direct heat from a heat gun and propane space heater to clear the freeze. I am happy to report that no dead bodies were discovered under our house.

Canon EOS 60D, Bower 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye CS, ISO-1250 f/3.5 @ 1/8 sec.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Yard Bird: Day 75

Stepping out into the cold to check the level of our heating oil tank, I heard from the woods what sounded like the pattering of water dripping onto a side-walk. Since liquid water doesn't exist when it's -20 outside, and we have no side-walks, I went to investigate. Turns out the pattering sound was actually a male Three-toed Woodpecker. distinguishable from other woodpeckers by the yellow crown and barred white back, chipping away at the bark of a dead spruce. A new species for our yard and for my life list in general. Similar to the Boreal Owl, Three-toed Woodpeckers reside in the boreal forests of the far north, throughout the Canadian Arctic from Alaska to Newfoundland; dipping further south only along the Rocky Mountains. Feeding mainly on wood boring beetle larvae, these woodpeckers may be the best defense against the spruce bark beetle, a destructive invasive from Europe that has devastated an estimated 3 billion board feet of timber in Alaska alone; including the spruce in this photo. This particular bird had no problem with Reef, Casey, and myself standing at the base of tree watching it feed, so I'm guessing the feeding was good.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-1000 f/5.6 @ 1/200 sec.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Octohip: Day 74

It might be a sign that I've been deprived of the ocean for too long when a shriveled up wild rose hip reminds me of an octopus. What do you think? I don't own a macro lens, so for this shot I used a hollow 25mm extension tube, which essentially turns any lens into a macro lens by moving it 25mm further away from the camera sensor. This enables the lens to focus at a closer distance, thus increasing the magnification of the subject. Extension tubes are a cheap alternative to true macro lenses, and can yield equally satisfactory results.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM + Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II , ISO-400 f/9 @ 1/20 sec.

SEM: Day 73

Casey has been learning how to use a scanning electron microscope (SEM), and yesterday he gave me a quick rundown on the process. SEM's differ from traditional optical microscopes in that they use a focused beam of electrons, rather than light, to image a specimen. Achieving a much higher resolution than optical scopes, some SEM's can create a detailed image of a strand of DNA 2 nanometers in diameter. Just for scale a sheet of paper is 100,000 nanometers thick. That's pretty incredible. The only caveat is the specimen must first be coated in gold before electrons are hurled at it. Read more about this amazing tool HERE on Casey's blog.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1000 f/4 @ 1/40 sec.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Aurora Selfie: Day 72

Science and technology have taken the guessing out of aurora watching. Satellites that monitor the sun's geomagnetic activity can predict with reliable accuracy when solar winds are bound to strike earth's atmosphere. There's even a new webcam, maintained by the Geophysical Institute at UAF, that allows viewers to see in real-time when the aurora is active. The link is HERE. We noticed last night before going to bed that the northern lights were putting on a show just after the moonrise, but I'm still playing catch-up with previous night's photos, and it was negative twenty out, so we stayed in bed.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/4 @ 4 sec.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Classic Reef: Day 71

This is basically what Reef does all day when it's below zero out, and I'm pretty sure he's okay with that.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 85mm USM, ISO-800 f/1.8 @ 1/60 sec.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ice Roads: Day 70

Two major highways provide relief for motorists trying to escape Fairbanks, the Richardson and the Parks. The Parks Highway, Interstate A-4 or Route 3, is a 323 mile stretch of road that connects Fairbanks to Anchorage. This major artery crosses the Tanana Valley before traversing the Alaska Range adjacent to Denali National Park, while paralleling the Alaska Railroad. Being the road to Denali, I assumed this is where its nickname came from, but in fact the Parks was named after former governor George Alexander Parks. He was nominated by President Calvin Coolidge as the first governor of the then territory of Alaska, from 1925 to 1933.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-800 f/20 @ 1/500 sec.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Snow Moon: Day 69

This month's full moon is called the "Snow Moon", since February tends to be the coldest snowiest month of the year. This might be true for the east coast right now, but not so much for the drought stricken west. There's no snow any time soon in the forecast for Fairbanks either, but temperatures are staying in the negative teens and twenties, with another cold snap bringing negative thirties by the weekend.  

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-800 f/4 2.5 sec.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Alaska Railroad: Day 68

A few days back we took a drive to the park boundary of Denali to escape the flat monotony of the Tanana Valley. The park itself is closed to motorists in the winter, and the closer you get to the actual mountain of Denali the more obscured it becomes, but the surrounding rocky peaks were just as spectacular. Heading back home we were lucky to catch up with the Aurora Winter Train, which only operates on the weekends between Fairbanks and Anchorage. A 12 hour trip that runs northbound on Saturday and southbound on Sunday.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-800 f/16 @ 1/500 sec.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Thank You Sun Spots: Day 67

Gusty solar winds brushed past the earth's magnetosphere once again last night, producing another awesome showing of northern lights. Kp levels peaked at 5, otherwise considered a G1 (minor) class storm. The high end of the geomagnetic scale is a G5. Such a storm would have the potential to cause widespread power outages, damage transformers, cause navigational issues for aircraft and wildlife, and disrupt radio and satellite communications; but these rarely happen. The only thing damaged by last night's G1 storm was my sleep pattern.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-320 f/4 @ 8 sec.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Lights Continue: Day 66

A geomagnetic storm finally arrived just around midnight last night, producing brilliant displays of aurora overhead. This is a photo of me getting home from watching it around 1 am this morning. Today, Casey and I are going on a scenic drive to celebrate 3 years as a couple, Reef's coming too. Hopefully the "Big Game" will give us the road all to ourselves.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-640 f/4 @ 8 sec.