After a rough night sailing through stormy arctic seas (motion sickness medicine was a lifesaver). The ship, Sea Spirit, made its way through the Krossfjord and King’s Bay, finally entering Lilliehöökfjorden. We dropped anchor and manned the zodiacs to explore the Lilliehöök Glacier. We faced a horseshoe shaped wall of ice. 7 km across, 80m tall, and stretching to the horizon with jagged peaks poking through the ice and clouds.
The only place ice didn’t meet the sea was where a mountain stood instead. In-between these mountains, glaciers spilled out into the fjord. At least 14 glaciers! This was the biggest glacier bay I had ever been in. Of course, this “accomplishment” would soon be “defeated” by other, more massive fjords of Svalbard, it doesn’t detract from the impression this fjord made on me.
The green-blue water was silky smooth and looked thick with glacial silt. The underwater housing was working, but the “thickness” of the glacial water limited visibility. Nonetheless, I practiced using this new piece of equipment. Afterall, this was my first time doing underwater photography in the field! A bearded seal swam lazily around the smooth water, coming close to a zodiac that I was not in. Shortly after spotting the seal, a pod of beluga whales surfaced for a few minutes, before diving deep and moving on.
In terms of photography, the stop in Lilliehöök provided a gentle warm up session to get into that “photo-mindset”. Not all the zodiac expeditions would be nearly as smooth and easy. In fact, many times the arctic sea conditions were not conducive to producing interesting photography, that is, unless the photographer was adequately prepared and exercised sound judgement in the field….For me the learning process never ends. and the conditions I experienced in Svalbard forced me to re-evaluate and adjust some of my preparations.
2014 Memorial Day Road Trip: Death Valley May 23-26, 2014
Memorial Day weekend: Desert Road trips was a nice way to kick off the summer shooting season, despite being a bit hotter than anticipated. This trip originally began as an astro centric one, with high speculative hopes that that Camelopardalis Meteor shower was going to produce. After a hazy first night, and reports that the shower was a dud, I quickly changed gears to focus on rich quality of morning light in this part of the country. It also had the secondary role to serve as a scouting trip for future visits. This road trip took me from Mountain View all the way back to Death Valley National Park for the first time since visiting in 2002 with my family.
Death Valley is spectacular in more ways than most people realize. Especially surprising was the abundance of interesting wildlife within the park’s border to go along with the landscapes and night photography. I had packed my 600mm for the trip, but didn’t really expect I would have much opportunity to use it. I saw coyote, hummingbirds, kangaroo rats, and lizards. I also found a herd of feral burros wandering around. Which was cool to see. They are wild donkeys that escaped the miner’s camps from the Gold Rush era in the 1849-1900s. I tried my best to find Sidewinders moving across the sand dunes at dusk/dawn, but they seem to be mostly nocturnal at this point in the year, as the temperatures begin to rise. At one point, my car thermometer read 121F (49.5 C). It wasn’t the official temperature because I was driving out in the sun, but it was definitely hot. There is something about the extremes of this planet that I, and many others, are drawn too. However, what is fascinating about Death Valley is that while floor is the hottest place in the world, it is possible to escape the heat (and photographically useless mid-day light) by driving up some of the canyons to higher elevations. The high canyon walls on the road to Wildrose would hold their shadows long into the days and higher elevation had cooler temperatures that animals didn’t mind. These conditions gave interesting glowing backlights to the flowers and whatever animal subjects came out. So I was able to keep shooting all night, all morning and all day. I am already planning to go back there around the Fourth of July for my next “big weekend” trip.