Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Seeds: Day 124

Birch trees all over the interior are littering the slushy melting snow with an unusually high number of seeds, produced during ideal growing conditions by female catkins last summer. Where birch stands are dense, the winter white has now been transformed into a dusting of golden flakes. Local biologists report that this boost in birch seed production has also led to the largest spring invasion of Common and Hoary Redpolls in close to ten years.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM + Canon EF 25mm Extension Tube II, ISO-200 f/22 @ 1/80 sec.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Strike Two: Day 123

My second attempt to photograph the northern lights from Murphy Dome last night was again a bust. Geared up for the cold and waiting for the sun's wash to subside behind the horizon, hours went by with only a weak green arch appearing from the northeast, refusing to brighten any more than barely visible. Not surprising the predicted geomagnetic storm appears to be delayed. Fortunately I came across another photographer hoping to add the aurora to his portfolio, providing a welcomed relief from the often lonely and occasionally spooky experience of aurora watching. You should check out his shots from around Alaska at garrettcrispell.com.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-100 f/4 @ 2 sec.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dinner And A Show: Day 122

I had my first experience of a door-less foam seated true Alaskan outhouse last night during a BBQ at a friend's dry cabin, and was treated to a showing of northern lights. Imagine if this was your view during a late night visit to the john. It would make having no running water a whole lot easier.

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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Resident Boreal Owl: Day 121

Casey and I have reached the pinnacle of domestic-ness in that every week we fire up the television and watch a mini series called "Fortitude", an X-Files-like sci-fi drama about a mysterious demonic virus that plagues a remote island community on the Arctic Circle. It's good TV, you should check it out. As with any thriller slash murder mystery, we wait until it's dark out before starting a new episode, to add to the suspense of the plot. Coincidentally the hours after dusk are when the Boreal Owl is most active, and while watching the show we often hear in the background a male calling near a nest box I placed in a tree beyond our living room window. A few nights back, during a tense scene involving a shadowy figure lurking behind one of the main characters, a dark shape swooped past our window in the direction of the nest box. "Was that an...owl?" I asked, and we rushed to the window to investigate the shape. Sure enough emerging from the entrance of the nest box was the puffed up silhouette of an owl head. Too dark for photos, but visual confirmation that the nest box is in fact being visited by a Boreal Owl. Yesterday morning while enjoying a cup of coffee, I glanced outside and to my surprise there it was, a small owl, half emerged from the box squinting from the morning sun and looking very content. It would appear the nest box is not just being visited, but at least one owl has now taken up residence.

A short video of yesterday's first glimpse of the owl can be viewed HERE.

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

22 Degree Halo: Day 120

Another one from the archives, taken in mid winter when moisture in the air froze into tiny ice crystals. This is a 22 degree halo formed by the sun's light refracted and reflected by atmospheric ice. The horizontal parhelic circle intersects the 22 degree halo to form two "sundogs" on either side of the sun.

Canon EOS 60D, Bower 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye CS, ISO-200 f/? @ 1/250 sec. (Aperture is manual on this lens so I often never remember the setting, hence f/? if you're paying attention).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Catch-up: Day 119

I have a backlog of photos that represent winter here in Alaska I'd like to display before I start showing the transition into spring. Which by-the-way is happening very fast here in Fairbanks, it might get up to 50 degrees by the weekend! Here's another shot of subtle northern lights over the coastal mountains of Seward.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1000 f/4.5 @ 15 sec.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Intertidal: Day 118

A tribute to that zone of extremes, the intertidal. A community of algae, sponges, mussels, limpets, snails, and a whole diverse swath of other invertebrates clinging to existence, thriving on the disturbance of turbulent crashing waves and the rise and fall of tides. Unfortunately the high tide doesn't make it to Fairbanks.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-100 f/22 @ 1.6 sec.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ice Marlin: Day 117

Another one of my favorites from the 2015 World Ice Art Championships.

Canon EOD 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-800 f/4 1/50 sec.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Last Light: Day 116

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-100 f/22 @ 1/13 sec.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Outhouse: Day 115

In the event of an emergency, the northern lights will guide you to the nearest outhouse.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1250 f/4 @ 15 sec.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Open North American: Day 114

The 2015 Open North American Classic kicked off yesterday afternoon here in Fairbanks. Referred to by some as the Super Bowl of mushing, it has been a highlight of spring in the Fairbanks community for 70 years and is the longest running dog sled race in the world. Unlike the thousand mile trails and slow pace of the Yukon Quest and Iditarod, the Open North American consists of three 20 mile heats over a three day period centered solely around speed. The race historically runs through the streets of downtown, however warm temperatures and rapidly melting snow forced the race to move up into the hills.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, ISO-100 f/2.8 @ 1/2500 sec.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring: Day 113

The sun is now directly overhead at the equator, marking the spring equinox, and the return of light to the northern hemisphere. We now receive a full 12 hours of daylight here in Fairbanks, from 8am to 8pm. A major swing in daytime temperatures last week from -30F to 48F is rapidly melting away the white landscape, clearing the roads and revealing ground that's been buried since October. If temperatures remain above freezing in the coming weeks, this could very well be the big breakup into spring. This grouse print in the snow won't be around for much longer.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-500 f/14 @ 1/250 sec.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Post G4 Storm: Day 112

This is an image from a 3 hour time-lapse of the amazing northern lights during our stay at Stiles Creek Cabin. I've posted the short video below (best viewed in 720 or 1080). Most of the action happened, as usual, while we were sleeping.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stiles Creek Cabin: Day 111

Eight miles walking through wet snow carrying a heavy pack and towing a sled full of fire wood has taken a toll on my knees. I believe I'll be breaking into Reef's muscle relaxers tonight. Casey, Laura, Reef, and I completed an overnight trip to Stiles Creek Cabin in the back-country just outside Fairbanks. Damaging my knees was worth sharing views like this with the people, and dog, that I love. More photos and stories from the trip to come. For now...rest.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1250 f/4 @ 15 sec.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sculpted Ice: Day 110

We checked out the international ice carving championship last night. Packing for a quick overnight cabin trip, so no time to describe this photo.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1000 f/4 @ 1/50 sec.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Aurora Laura: Day 109

Our good friend Laura is visiting us for the week, and we decided a good introduction to Fairbanks would be the recently reliable northern lights. Venus is just setting to the left of the abandoned fireplace.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-800 f/4.5 @ 25 sec.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Warming Trend: Day 108

It may not feel like it to those plagued with snow on the east coast of North America, but 2014 was the warmest year on record since people started taking notes back in 1880. If you look at a global temperature anomaly map, much of this added heat is concentrated around the poles, particularly the arctic. This has not been the extreme winter we were warned about before moving up here, with only a few weeks of temperatures in the low negatives. So although the average high in Fairbanks yesterday was -10F when it's actually spring in most other places, I don't mind.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-100 f/4 @ 0.8 sec.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi: Day 107

Pi is an irrational number and mathematical constant derived from the ratio of a circles circumference to its diameter, 3.1415926535...and on and on it goes. Today's date, March 14th 2015 or 3.14.15, is recognized as Pi Day. Mathematician Archimedes was the first to accurately calculate the value of Pi using multi-sided polygons roughly 2,000 years ago, and this special number has since become an essential component of engineering, statistics, cosmology, and the list goes on. There's nothing more fitting than a home baked pie to celebrate a brilliant number. Happy Pi Day everyone.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/5.6 @ 1/80 sec.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Space Golf: Day 106

A few very active sunspots have been churning out blobs of solar particles in the form of coronal mass ejections (CME) over the past week, but the majority of this solar wind has been directed away from Earth. Space weather forecasters predicted there would be a 60% chance that some of this material would intercept our atmosphere last night and spark a G1 storm. Naturally I took notice and drove up above the valley haze to Murphy Dome for a clear view to the north. I framed this golf-ball-like radar globe in the shot and waited for the green bands to appear. Minutes went by, then hours, then a couple of hours...and nothing. It was in the negative 20's out, so I gave up. Still, the golf-ball looks pretty cool.

For an animation of the much anticipated but so far dud of a solar storm, click HERE. The sun is in the middle and Earth is the green dot.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-400 f/4.5 @ 10 sec.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wind: Day 105

I miss a lot of things about living by the sea. The salt spray, the fresh air, the sense of endless space. One coastal feature, however, we experienced during our visit to Seward that I don't miss living in Fairbanks, is wind. We rarely get wind in the low lying Tanana Valley, and when it does blow, the dense forest provides shelter from the gusts at ground level. Considering it's back into the -20's and -30's around town, it's a good thing wind is rare. That would be a pretty painful windchill.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-640 f/20 @ 1/1250 sec.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mergansers: Day 104

A flock of Common Mergansers likely overwintering in the fjordlands around the Kenai Peninsula. Unlike most other ducks, female mergansers also exhibit a somewhat decorated plumage, with a grey body, amber head, and bright red bill. The males of course have a "flashier" plumage of white and black highlights on the body and wings with a dark green head. Male Common Mergansers are most easily distinguished from the Red-breasted Merganser by a lack of brown around the neck.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-500 f/10 @ 1/800 sec.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2015 Iditarod Begins: Day 103

The 2015 Iditarod kicked off yesterday, an annual event that tests the skills of mushers from all over the world on an eight day race to Nome Alaska. The 1,000 mile long trail generally begins in Willow just north Anchorage, but unseasonably warm weather and a extreme lack of snow around the southwestern portion of the state, forced organizers to move the start to Fairbanks. Standing on the frozen Chena River, we watched mushers and their dog teams continue a tradition of transportation adopted by early settlers and developed by Native Alaskans thousands of years ago.

Follow the 2015 Iditarod HERE.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, ISO-100 f/2.8 @ 1/2500 sec.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Seward Harbor: Day 102

A black-legged kittiwake feather floating in a harbor full of Pacific herring, something we just don't get to see in Fairbanks Alaska.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-640 f/5.6 @ 1/500 sec.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Seward Lights: Day 101

As a bonus, after a gorgeous afternoon of sunshine and marine wildlife, on our final night in town we watched an unexpected display of aurora borealis peak over the mountains above the lights of Seward harbor.

Canon EOS 60D, Canoon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-800 f/4.5 @ 15 sec.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Seward: Day 100

Reef's back in the ocean and fetching sticks on this 100th day of photos.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM, ISO-640 f/5.6 @ 1/800 sec.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Anchorage: Day 99

By no means the first person to visit this picturesque natural harbor, James Cook sailed into what later would be known as Cook Inlet in 1778 on his third voyage aboard the HMS Resolution. After several attempts to sail through the Bering Strait, Cook ultimately failed to complete his primary task of locating the fabled northwest passage. In the process, however, he did become the first navigator to accurately map the extent of the Alaskan coastline. Cook eventually abandoned his efforts in Alaska in 1779 and returned to Hawaii for what would prove to be his final visit to the "tropical paradise". Following hostile tensions between his crew and the Hawaiians, on February 14th Cook was struck in the back of the head and stabbed to death on a beach in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii. Our visit to Cook Inlet is a brief one as well, on our way to Seward for the weekend, and hopefully will end with less stabbing. Although a visit to Hawaii would be nice.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-800 f/9 @ 1/1250 sec.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Colors Of The Wind: Day 98

This photo invokes a certain song from the movie Pocahontas.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-640 f/5 @ 8 sec.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dense Forests: Day 97

Long harsh winters, frequent summer fires, and a short growing season are all characteristics of the boreal forest that limit the types of trees capable of thriving in such conditions. Here in the interior of Alaska, towards the southern end of the boreal extent, dense stands of spruce and birch dominate the landscape. Like whitecaps upon an endless churning sea, the frosted forest canopy envelopes the rolling landscape, stretching out to the horizon in all directions. At ground level the forest at times feels claustrophobic, and can leave you longing for the relief of open spaces. When viewed from above, however, particularly during the golden hours of dawn and dusk, the beauty of the boreal forest is revealed.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM + 1.4x, ISO-400 f/11 @ 1/500 sec.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Aurora Backdrop: Day 96

With all of the northern lights we've been having I might as well change the name of this blog to "An Aurora A Day". Promising green patterns began forming on the horizon early last night, but the lights petered out just before a thin layer of stratus rolled in. I did, however, manage to snap a few shots before the show ended, including this one where the aurora adds a bit of magic to an otherwise dull photo of a black spruce.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-640 f/5.6 @ 20 sec.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reds: Day 95

A break in the clouds unveiled a night sky full of pinks and greens. Forecasters are calling for a week-long series of snow flurries arriving tomorrow, so I spent a few hours at Cleary Summit last night watching the auroral displays before grey skies dominate once again. Normally our eyes can only detect the green aurora, but last night the G1 storm was strong enough to produce visible reds, even through the wash of a nearly full moon.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-1000 f/5 @ 20 sec.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Heads Up: Day 94

It is best not to touch the trees the morning after a big snow.

Canon EOS 60D, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, ISO-200 f/20 @ 1/30 sec.