Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fall Colors in Chugach Mountains, Alaska

Fall colors still abound in many lower 48 states and other parts of the world this time of the year. In Alaska, autumn comes early, depending on which part. It starts in late August and peaks in September. In my last post, I wrote about the colorful mid September fall in eastern Alaska, near the Canadian border. The following week, the fall colors were still gorgeous in the Chugach Mountains north of Anchorage. The high peaks of the Chugach Mountains were already dusted with new snow. Birch trees were bright yellow on the base of the mountains. Smaller trees and shrubs were turning vibrant red.

This is Alaskan wild rose; Prickly Rose, and its rose hips in autumn colors.

Wet meadows around Nancy Lakes were also painted in warm oranges colors.

Twin Peaks, a part of the Chugach Mountains, rise over golden birch trees and a grass meadow under a blue sky.

I love these dramatic color changes in this northern land. Nature was displaying a grand finale to the short summer season. At this moment in mid November, leaves were long gone, and snow starts to take over most parts of Alaska. The long cold, dark winter with has just began...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Colors in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska

October is the peak season for autumn colors in the U.S and in many parts of the northern hemisphere. In Alaska, the fall color season starts in August and peaks in September.

On a gorgeous September day, eastern Alaska was painted in golden yellow to vivid red! I photographed the northern part of Wrangell - St. Elias National Park. Birch trees, which comprise a large part of fall colors in Alaska, were brilliant under the sun.
Tundra and shrubs are decorated in bright orange to red. These amazing autumn colors are special in the northern region and alpine environments exclusively. I just love these colors!

Mount Sanford with fall colored birch.
Historical cabin surrounded by fall colored birch.
Gold was discovered at Nabesna in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park in early 1930s. The Rambler Mine is the remains of an abandoned gold mine. The atmosphere was a bit spooky around the mining ruins.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bull Moose, Alaska

Moose are the largest of the deer family that live in the Northern Hemisphere. Alaska has a large moose population including about 1500 that live within the Municipality of Anchorage. They wander in and out of residential areas, grazing on landscaping and natural shrubbery in backyards, and sometimes hold up traffic on city streets or cross busy highways giving all involved an adrenaline rush.
During late August until early October moose are in their mating, also called rutting, season in Alaska. Moose, a solitary animal most of year, become more social this time of the year staying up all night while eating and resting during the day then staying up all night and doing it all over again.
Bull moose grow their huge antlers every year starting from small nubs in spring to massive fighting weapons doubling as shields by fall. When the mating season begins, the bulls' antler velvet starts shedding and with assistance from the bulls, will be ready for the mating season. Here is a younger bull moose I photographed in the mid September in Anchorage. The velvet is still hanging on his antler.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Portage Glacier, Alaska


Portage Glacier, located within Chugach National Forest southeast of Anchorage, is one of the most popular tourist attractions. However, the glacier has rapidly receded during the past century; the glacier face can hardly be seen from the highway or visitor center.

On a gorgeous summer day in July, I hiked 4 miles each way through a mountain pass to reach the current glacier face to view and photograph up close.

I camped in front of the glacier where a natural Fireweed garden was blooming in vivid pink, decorating the valley. The glacier and glacial lake were right in front of us under a perfect clear sky.
The glacier was actively calving and creating new icebergs with roaring thunder.
During the long sunset, ice bergs glistened in golden orange. In the northern latitude, sunset takes a long time, nearly one hour of the magic light - a photographer's dream. 
Here is the campfire in twilight.
At sunrise, the rose colored light glows on the mountain peaks above the glacier. The light slowly shifted down to the glacier. Glacier shined in the warm morning sun. Sunrise in nature is always a spiritual moment for me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Big Island of Hawaii #3 - Tropical Rainforest and Waterfalls

Nature on Hawaii Island (Big Island) is diverse; sunshine beaches, volcanic landscapes, rain forests, and a 13,803 foot high mountain.

The east side of the Big Island is located in the rain shadow with annual rainfall 150-250 inches. Abundant rain falls and with its year-round warm climate, the vegetation grows very well. The thick greens of the rainforest which includes typical jungle trees with draping vines; banyan trees, palm, ferns, and mosses cover the area.

There are numerous waterfalls throughout the Big Island's rainforest. Akaka Falls is one of Hawaii's iconic landscape images. The water drops 422 ft vertical down a moss and fern covered cliff, and its spray creates rainbows near the bottom. Just like paradise imagined...

100-foot Kahuna Falls are cascading through lush green cliff.

Beach is nice, but I'm more attracted to unique natural landscapes on the Big Island of Hawaii.

When I got back from Hawaii in early June, Spring had finally arrived in Alaska. Green vegetation was a welcoming sight. Summer is the most beautiful time in Alaska and a busy season for a nature photographer. I'll share some of new photos from Alaskan wilderness on the next posting.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Big Island of Hawaii #2 - Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (Honu) at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles ("Honu" in the Hawaiian language) are sacred creatures in ancient Hawaiian legend, and a significant symbol of the Hawaiian Islands. Native Hawaiians worship the Honu as their ancestral spirit guide whose wisdom protects and leads them throughout their lives. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach on the Big Island is one of the spots where you can find those Green Sea Turtles out basking on the beach. It was in the evening when I first saw two large turtles laid out on the shore, mostly with closed eyes, and stayed at the same spot overnight. They are huge; a typical adult green sea turtle has a outer shell length of 40 inches and can weigh from 200-500 lbs. Their life spans around 70-80 years!

This huge turtle was sleeping on this rock until sunrise.

Some turtles were stuck in the tide pool... They were waiting for the incoming tide to opens up the waterway to the sea.

Turtles kissing.

Besides the turtles presence, Punalu'u Black Sand Beach has a magical atmosphere; the jet black sands, formed from the volcanic lava, surrounded by picturesque coconut palm trees. Behind the beach lies a freshwater pond with water plants adding yet another interesting landscape.

This story will continue in the next blog: Big Island of Hawaii #3 - Tropical Rainforest and Waterfalls

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Big Island of Hawaii #1 - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

In late May while it was still spring in Southcentral Alaska, I flew to Hawaii for the first time. I've been focusing on northern wilderness and alpine landscapes for most of my photography career while living in Alaska for the past 3 years. 

The tropical environment of Hawaii with its wild volcanic landscape gave me a new appreciation of nature. The Big Island (Hawaii) offers almost every form of nature; from the dynamic Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the snow-capped Mauna Kea, the tropic rainforests, countless waterfalls, the black sands beach, to the island’s own unique wildlife. There were just too many things to see and experience during the 2 weeks I visited.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was one highlight of the trip of which there were many. The park includes two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since 1983. Acres after acres of lava flow, craters, and lava tubes make this National Park a must see. The volcanic eruptions are not as active as in years past, but Halema'uma'u Crater at the summit of KÄ«lauea still sends out red hot magma. The plume glow illuminates the night after sunset and yet the stars above were still unbelievably bright in the clear night sky.

Here are the old lava flows which engulfed subdivisions of Kalapana. This kind of lava field goes on for miles and miles offering amazing a glimpse of nature's abstract art. (Sorry to those who lost homes).

New life grows in the cracks of the old lava flow.

The trail ended at the black sand beach.

This story will continue in the next blog: Big Island of Hawaii #2 - Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles at Punaluu Black Sand Beach