Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lost Lake - Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

During the summer of 2015, I spent more time in the South Central Alaskan wilderness, an area near Anchorage. Anchorage is surrounded by beautiful yet true wild Chugach Mountains with numerous lakes and streams. The past summer started a month early with beautiful weather and plenty of sunshine! The Kenai Peninsula is one of my favorite places to explore and photograph its breathtaking landscapes.

In mid June, I backpacked to Lost Lake, within the Chugach National Forest, on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula seemed to celebrate the early summer with long daylight... Fresh greens grow fast and wildflowers bloom in the meadows... The trail was only 7.5 miles one way and moderate, however, as I gained elevation, the season seemed to slowly revert back to early spring... mostly brown landscapes with patches of snow along the small lakes on the trail. Lost Lake is large and outstanding! Surprisingly, it was still half frozen! The icy surface shined brightly under the sun... Camping at the lake shore, and observing the light shifting on the horizon... The lowering sun lit up the Resurrection Peaks from the side, and the lake shore was enveloped in warm orange light. It was nearly summer solstice and sunset at the northern latitude took a long time...

Unfortunately, the sun set behind the mountain before actually setting into the horizon, so I explored the area for the better spot along the lake... This image was from a little higher point. It was twilight for a few hour after sunset. I love this long "purple time" during summer in Alaska.

The next morning was beautiful again... The snow capped mountains and icy lake contrasted against a blue sky.
Another sunset at a different point at Lost Lake. Since I loved the stunning scenery of Lost Lake and its surroundings, I returned a few weeks later... Since the lake shore was complex, each vantage point revealed very different vistas!

Amazing magenta colors appeared at the western sky after half hour past sunset! I had already packed up my camera and was back at camp at the time. Slowly, the pastel pinks spread out among the overcast sky, and the colors changed to intense magenta! It was magic in an already darkened sky! I quickly set up the camera at the shore by my camp, and captured these beautiful colors.

There is a huge marmot living along Lost Lake.

Wildflowers are especially outstanding on the Kenai Peninsula. In higher elevations, Lupines were still in bud in mud June... Their small furry leaves look soft and delicate.

I am always fascinated by False Hellebore’s leave patterns... This is what I call nature's artwork.
In early July, Lupines were blooming all over the Lost Lake area!

During the short summer months are the most beautiful time in Alaska...and it's too short. It is already December as I am writing this... The day light has become short, sunrise is almost 10 am and sunset is before 4pm, and it has been gray overcast for many weeks. I'm staying in Hawaii for a new photo project. I'll explore and photograph on Kauai Island, especially capturing the spectacular landscape of Napali Coast. Next update will be in a few weeks

Saturday, November 21, 2015

First Snow on Chugach Mountains, Alaska

It was mid September when the first snow fell on the mountains just outside of Anchorage. The past summer the weather was unusually nice and warm paving the way for vibrant fall colors around the city and surrounding mountains. It was mid September when light snow dusted the high peaks. "Termination dust" as the locals call it indicating the termination of summer in Alaska, and about a month later, permanent snow would fall and stay.

From Rendezvous Peak, Chugach Mountain peaks were covered with snow while the foothills and valleys were still in Autumn colors.

Rendezvous Ridge was dusted with fresh snow.

At the lower elevations, fall foliages were still vivid among new snow.

A golden leaf trapped in icicle...

Coming down from the mountain, glad to see it was still fall. Golden foliages glowed in warm light just before sunset...

Fall color trees with distant peaks, also snow dusted.

Mountains aglow in rose color at sunset.

Finally snow reached ground level in late October. The long Alaskan winter has begun... Snow will stay another half year.

I will post some more Alaskan wilderness images from the past summer in the next posting. Please check back in 2 weeks!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, Alaska - Autumn in August

In mid August 2015, I headed north, the far north, above the Arctic Circle to explore the Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve. It had been almost 3 years since I was there last. I wanted to explore and photograph more in depth this time... The Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve is true remote wilderness, it is hundreds of miles away from civilization, and the weather and environment can be harsh. Only a handful of people venture into the area during the short summer season. There aren't any visitor facilities or established trails, so you have to be very self-sufficient.

It was gray and rained constantly since leaving Anchorage and while passing through Denali and Fairbanks... It was typical weather in Alaska during August. When I crossed the Yukon River and made it to the Arctic Circle, it was raining hard... Camping in cold rain isn't my favorite! It was raining on and off all the next day driving through the Dalton Highway along the Brooks Range. This remote wilderness seems depressing in the dark overcast weather. Autumn was already in the air here in the Arctic north in mid August! The brilliant fall colors were at least brightening us up. The rain got harder when we finally arrived at the Gates of the Arctic and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge area... and it was drenching overnight till late the next morning!

Finally, the rain slowed down in late morning as three of us packed up camp and prepared for several days backpacking into the park. Starting at the Dalton Highway, we crossed the icy cold Dietrich River then climbed up the brushy tundra hill for a few hours. It was a long steep climb with heavy packs. Reaching the flat area of the mountain ridge, we officially entered the National Park boundary. Clouds were gathering above us while we walked across the marshy tundra on the ridge... and a stormy rain began to fall! We put on rain jackets and pants, and covered up our packs in the stormy wind. Sadly, the rain turned to hail! After we were wet and cold, the sun came out and brought up multiple rainbows over the mountains. We traversed through the wet and marshy tundra covered mountain till finally we descended down towards Kuyuktuvuk Creek. It was much harder than backpacking on established trails... The three of us set up base camp at the creek that night.

It was at least partly sunny the next day. We hiked along the creek with daypacks only and camera gear for me. The fall colors in the tundra were colorful in this Arctic region - red, orange and yellow patchwork! The colors really stood out in the sunshine!

 A skull from a Dall Sheep was found on the tundra hill... The place was truly wild, away from towns, no phone signals, and no other people besides the three of us... If something tragic happened, there wasn't any way to call for rescue and our bodies weren't going to be found for years, just like this sheep.

Waking up the next morning surprised us with snow! The mountain pass was snow covered while raining in camp... It was still the middle of August! We decided to shorten the trip and headed back. To get back to where we started from, we had to climb up the steep tundra mountain with snow on the ridge... Climbing up the slippery tundra hill in rain was pretty demanding, and as we climbed higher the rain turned to snow... The mushy tundra ridge was snow covered, as more snow fell... It was cold, wet, and miserable... I just had to keep walking. I regretted not capturing the snowy landscape, however, I lost any motivation to do any extra work besides walking to get out the area...

Better weather was waiting for us at the other side of mountain ridge. No more snowing, and sunshine! Finally, I took out my camera. The vast landscape with endless mountain scenery was amazing... Hundreds of thousands of miles of untouched wilderness! Dalton Highway and Pipeline was the only human evidence in the area. This remote Arctic North is truly beautiful, but at the same time, I sensed nature's brutal power.

Here are the some more images from the Arctic North...
Beginning of the Dalton Highway.

Breathtaking sunset at the Yukon River.

Old mining town of Wiseman. This old cabin is a museum now.

More images from Alaskan wilderness will be in the next posting. Please check back!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Autumn Colors – Interior Alaska

 Starting in late August, the Alaskan wilderness gets painted in bright fall colors. After the short summer, trees turn bright yellow and the tundra transforms to orange and red!

 It was early September in beautiful weather as I was headed north to capture the colors. Trees in Anchorage were still green at that time. In interior Alaska, typical Alaskan tundra landscape begins at the south side of Denali National Park. The entire valley was already in vivid reddish autumn colors and full of blueberries! The rain showers over the mountain pass finally stopped… Then a perfect rainbow arched along the Alaska Range! The sun peeked through the clouds and brightened up the fall colored tundra.

 Heading down to Eastern Alaska the next day, the spectacular fall colors continued on… Here is the Tanana River with the yellow fall leaves!

 The mountain pass along the Taylor Highway was all carpeted with vibrant tundra… It was like nature was releasing the entire energy for their season's grand finale!

 Sunset glow on the distance hills… and the northern lights were dancing all night. (The northern lights photos were on the previous posting, please see them too!)

 The beautiful weather continued into the next day. Endless fall leaves cheered along the highway with numerous lakes. This lake was perfectly still and reflected the mountain range like mirror! There are so many places like this in Alaska which are outstanding sceneries but in very remote places and not so many people get to see it. I was lucky to be in the place at that special moment.

The last stop was Chugach Mountains along Glen Highway...  Brilliant colors!

Monday, September 28, 2015

September Aurora #2 - Tok, Alaska

 The northern lights have been amazing this year so far. The strong aurora has been appearing in the northern sky since the middle of the August. I headed north from Anchorage to capture the great northern lights and spent the first night near Fairbanks where the northern lights were outstanding and lasted for hours.

 The next day, I camped in a mountain pass north of Tok, in eastern Alaska near the Canadian border. The sky was clear all day. The aurora was already visible while the sun was still setting. As the sky darkened (sunset takes a long time in northern latitudes), the northern lights became brighter and more intense. The curtain-like lights waved in the northern sky and stretched across the horizon.
 Then it turned into fish shaped lights! I like to call this "Spirit of Salmon."

 The Aurora that night was very active. It was almost nonstop movement with constant waving, dancing, circling, swirling, and spreading.
Light explosion from the mountain...

 Corona lights in zenith!

 Bright intense lights continuously moving.

The lights of Phoenix!

The northern lights show was all over the sky, a 360 degree view for the whole night!

It was also fall color season... The vivid and most beautiful time in Alaska. It is also nice to see the northern lights in warmer temperatures instead of 20 below.

I'll post some fall color images on my next posting, please visit back soon.

Monday, September 21, 2015

September Aurora - Fairbanks, Alaska

The northern lights started early this year! As soon as the darkness of night returned around the middle of August, the Aurora started dancing. This year seems to be the great year for the northern lights. There have already been several days that the aurora activity has been strong enough to be visible from just north of Anchorage.

When solar activity is high, the bright aurora dances across the sky in the Arctic region. Although the lights can appear near Anchorage, they are much brighter and move vibrant in more northern latitudes.

In early September, I packed up the camera gear and headed north towards Fairbanks. The sky was clearing as I got closer to Fairbanks. Around midnight, the aurora began appearing... It started as a faint straight light across the sky. Then, the lights started moving by the time I arrived at one of the local lakes. The bright moon rose, but the aurora was still bright under the moonlight. The weather was calm, no wind. The arch of lights were waving above the small lake.

The aurora continuously danced all over the sky. The ribbon like lights moved across the sky and disappeared, then the next ones formed above the horizon. 

The intense fire of lights flaming above the lake... The fire created an arrow-like light and ran across the sky!

The northern lights continued on and on for hours... Arriving at another lake, the lights were dancing all over the sky and swirling! The lake was a perfect mirror for the light show. Being able to photograph the northern lights' reflections occur only at this time of the year before the lakes freeze. At one point, the neon green colors spread from the horizon to zenith! It was one of the best aurora I have ever seen!

Wave like lights!

Lights explosion in the sky...

In the green fog...

I camped near Tok, in eastern Alaska the next day... Another great night for aurora! To be continued in the next posting, please come back to see more aurora images!