See Part I of my Alaska Eagle Trip Diary here: See Part II of my Alaska Eagle Trip Diary here: The first full day of shooting eagles in Alaska produced some great photography opportunities for me. I’m working off the amazing Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska. This has to be one of the most photographically […]

Rate this:

See Part I of my Alaska Eagle Trip Diary here: It took me a full day (13 hours) from Vegas to get to Homer, AK which is the first destination on my Alaska eagle trip. I flew from Vegas to Seattle, Seattle to Anchorage and Anchorage to Homer. It was a very long day. Some […]

Rate this:

I’m in Alaska again – this time to photograph bald eagles. As I did last time, I’ll keep a running diary of sorts that I will publish to the Photofocus site as I am able. I will have very limited Internet access on part of this trip but will try to get access via satellite […]

Rate this:

As promised, here is a final recap of my Alaska bear trip containing the entire diary, links to videos on Vimeo, links to behind the scenes images on Flickr and links to the final images on Photrade. This is ongoing. I haven’t even had time to process all the images/video yet so monitor these links if you’re interested in seeing more. I won’t be talking about it here on the blog again in the event that some folks may be getting tired of hearing about it.

Link to behind the scenes photos on Flickr…

Link to Photrade bear portfolio…

Link to Vimeo videos…

Photo Gear on Location

Video of Packing for Alaska

Video Diary

The complete text diary…

(Nikon D3, Gitzo Tripod, Mongoose 3.5 Gimbal Head, Nikon 200-400 F/4 VR at 200mm, ISO 800, +0.5 EV. F.5.6 @ 125th Sec. straight out of the camera without post processing other than exposure adjustment and cropping – may appear too bright, too dark, wrong color, right color – depending on your monitor)

EDITOR’S NOTE: (I am in Anchorage and flying back to Seattle Thursday or Friday. I will post the rest of the diary in two and three part sections with a few photos, and then repost the entire group of entires with more photos next week.)

UPDATE: Here are a few snaps from the trip.

Alaska Photo Diary Part 3

Kodiak and Katmai

I’m here in Kodiak getting ready to board our chartered flight to Katmai where we’ll pick up the chartered yacht and finally embark on the final leg of the journey that will hopefully take us to the bears.

I’m trying to take some time to reflect on what I want to accomplish during this trip. One thing that sets pros apart from amateurs is we go into a photo shoot with specific goals in mind. I find it easier to get great shots when I have a theme. If I just go out and shoot everything I see, I am not focused enough (no pun intended) to come away with a solid portfolio of work.

So I am not even sure what my theme will be on this trip. But I have a few things in mind. Conditions will often help dictate the theme. Weather, subject, mood, light, and other considerations can cause me to change a theme.

Short of those situations, I think my theme this trip will be somewhat general… I want to make images that will help people look at life through the bear’s eyes. Perspective is something that’s often lacking in today’s busy world. I know my perspective. I might even know your perspective if I spend enough time with you. But do I really honor other perspectives? Do I really take time to learn from other people’s perspectives? And moreover – is there anything to be learned from the bear’s perspective?

This is the starting point for my theme this week. It could change. But that’s where I am going to begin.

And I’ll use my old standby photojournalism trick. . . EDFAT – Entire, Details, Focal Length, Angle and Time. I’ll shoot using this tool to remind myself to shoot scenes at different angles, with different lenses, closer and farther, higher and lower, at different times of day, using slow shutter speeds in some cases to capture the mood of motion or freezing action with a high shutter speed so that I can seriously study every detail in the bear’s face.

There’s a great deal to think about – and notice, nothing I’ve written here refers to gear or gadgets. Great photos start in the mind’s eye. Now I just have to capture in my camera over the next few days those photo’s I’ve already pre-visualized in my mind.

See you on the other side.

Alaska Photo Diary Part 4

We got up at Zero Dark Thirty for our flight to Kodiak where we (and our gear) were weighed for the floatplane trip. We chartered three planes for the entire group and our gear.

After a quick breakfast we headed out for Kinak Bay to meet the two 62 foot yachts we chartered. These two boats will be our “hotel” for the next week. We’ll eat all our meals, shower (occasionally), sleep and organize our images on the yachts.

If you’ve ever watched “Lockup” on MSNBC and seen the prison cells featured in their news stories, you’ve seen something resembling my “executive, private stateroom” on the boat. In fact, those cells on the TV show look BIGGER than my little bunk. As president of the horizontally-challenged photographers of America, I lodged an official protest with the ship’s captain, but it didn’t do any good. :)

After we unloaded the gear and supplies we got our photo gear lined up and headed out on a skiff to find some bears. We didn’t need long. Our first bear encounter was at about 3:30 pm. A large sow came down the creek fishing for the Pink Salmon that was running past our feet. From there, it got better and better. We saw a total of six bears on our first afternoon. Not as many as we hoped, but enough to get some great shots. We had one magnificent boar that must have weighed 900 pounds flanking us and coming around behind us so he could walk up the creek to fish. He was about 40 feet away and seemed MUCH closer. The light was great. For bears, you NEVER want sun. Cloudy, overcast days are best and that’s what we got all day.

By 7:00 pm it was still light, but the bears seemed to move on and we decided to as well. Everyone was cold, so we walked back to the skiff and went back to the yacht to download, eat and sleep.

So far, I’ve managed to survive the three airplane rides as well as the boat and the bears.

Alaska Photo Diary Part 5

In case you didn’t know it, yacht captains don’t encourage the use of boat showers. They want us to conserve water so sponge baths were the order of the day.

I got up after about five hours sleep as is my practice. Usually I’d be answering hundreds of e-mails at this time of day. It’s been 24 hours since I had Internet access and I’m having some slight anxiety thinking about the thousands of e-mails that will be waiting for me when I get back.

The trip leader is my pal Artie Morris and he’s having fun. I was also glad to find out that one of our TWIP listeners Marc Katz, was able to come on the trip. We’ve been hanging out and enjoying the experience together. Marc’s a heart-surgeon who has developed a love for photography. It’s cool for me to be around someone who’s just starting to really get serious about photography. He’s smart and he’s like a sponge so he’s in a position to learn a great deal on this trip.

Now it’s time to deal with my first day’s worth of images.

I off-loaded all my images onto the Macbook Air and then realized I forgot to install Capture NX2 on the laptop so I can’t see my D700 images. But I did copy them onto both the hard disk in the Air and onto one of my portable USB drives. They’ll have to wait until I return to Gig Harbor. I didn’t shoot much with the D700 since the D3 had the 200-400 attached. That was the lens I needed most of the day, and of course the D3 images go into Aperture.

Before I get to that I’ll mention that the gear performed very well yesterday.

The 1.7 teleconverter performs well on that 200-400 lens. You give up two stops and loose some detail, but it’s an acceptable compromise.

If we get to a place where the bears are closer, I’ll test the difference shooting without it.

I’m starting to rethink my theme – as often happens. I might shift to a theme that revolves around bears and water. Water plays such a big part in these animals’ lives that it’s hard not to include it.

We’re working Kinak Bay again today because there seem to be fewer bears in general, and fewer bears in Geographic Harbor than we found when scouting.

For those of you wondering, we’re about an hour (by boat) from the place where Timothy Tredwell found out you can’t pretend bears are like people. It’s called Kaflia Bay and we’ll probably avoid it since the bear maze is supposed to be fairly well devoid of bears at this time.

Back to the images…
I’m using Aperture to go through and select my best images from the first day.

My workflow is pretty simple. I import into a new project, use the auto-stack feature to get similar photos in a group, then I move to full-screen mode and shift through the images. I start by rejecting (using the “9” key) the images I know I don’t like. These are still in the library, I just can’t see them once I reject them. Then I mark the remaining images with four or five stars. The five-star images are those I know I’ll keep for further editing. The four-star images are those I might keep for later.

Then I go back through and reject any images that are remaining. I do some basic metadata work like adding simple captions, etc., and I’m done.

I think it’s a mistake to edit in the field. You’re too close to the subject to be objective. In my case, there’s also the problem of working on an underpowered computer. The Air is not a machine I’d want to use as a regular photo-editing machine. It’s just a way to do basics and nothing more. I’ll save the real work for when I get home to my color-calibrated 24″, fully-loaded iMac.

Time to get geared up for today’s shoot.

Photo by Scott Bourne

Alaska Photo Diary Part 6

We had a great second day of shooting. I was too tired last night to write so I am writing this the next day.

I made some amazing photographs on the second day. Bears standing up, eating fish, etc.

But the day was also brutal on me physically. We left the yacht in the skiff at 7:30AM and didn’t return until 6:30 PM. We walked a total of about three miles in and out over tough terrain. It just about did me in but, it was worth it.

The first two days of the trip we had near perfect weather for wildlife photography. The skies were high, thin overcast. We had occasional bouts of blue sky and sun which is actually much harder to deal with.

As I write this, we’re shut out by a major rain and wind storm. Frankly, I welcome the break. I’m bone tired.

Yesterday we had about a dozen bears. We also saw the first cubs of the trip. Unfortunately the new cubs we were tracking last year for this trip were killed last fall by a boar. No doubt he ate them or, he killed them because he knew their mother would go into estrus and he could mate with her again.

The cubs we did see were second year and were just learning to fish. Their mother actually did the catching of the fish and shared with her offspring. We were close enough to hear the cub moaning and whining for his food. It was great.
Continue reading

Photo Gear On Location in Alaska from Scott Bourne on Vimeo. _______________ This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Rate this:

Scott Bourne’s Alaska Video Diary from Scott Bourne on Vimeo. _______________ This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Rate this:

UPDATE: I have started posting my bear photos on my Photrade account. You can see the first 10 at Photrade.

UPDATE UPDATE: I have added some generic trip photos, minus bears to my Flickr account.

Alaska Photo Diary Part 9

We finished our second rain day pretty much as we did the first. We sat around working on our images from the first two days of shooting, we ate a great deal, and we enjoyed each other’s company. I personally did something I don’t usually get to do…I really relaxed. I love being on the water. I love the peaceful setting. And I really love Geographic Harbor.

Due to the storm’s movement, we came into Geographic Harbor late, but it was worth the wait. Wow is this beautiful. Eagles, black-legged kittiwakes, puffins, harbor seals, harloqin ducks, mew and glaucas gulls and of course bears, have been plentiful. A few of the team went ashore to scout in the rain and I am sorry I didn’t go with them. They got some great shots of the bears playfully wresting in the rain. They admitted that the conditions were miserable, but since they put up with those conditions they got the shots. Lesson learned. No matter how ugly the weather is today, I am going out to shoot if ANYONE decides to go to the beach.

A few of the crew as well as some in our party went fishing yesterday. The catch wasn’t overwhelming but it was tasty. We got three 15-25 pound halibut between the group, and one sand shark as well as some fish I have never heard of. Within three hours of the catch, our cook had made the filets, seasoned them and thrown them on the BBQ! Then, he made a home-made, fresh tarter sauce that was so good, I don’t have words to describe it. He left the skin on the fish and cooked it skin-side down. When the white blood raises to the top, the fish is done and again, all I can say is wow! I have never had any halibut taste like this. It was amazing.

We have quite an interesting group. Since we’re spending so much time on the yachts during the bad weather, it’s easy to get to know everyone. We have a commercial airline pilot, a heart surgeon, a commercial real estate broker, a mortgage broker (and his wife,) the owner of a boat-based sightseeing company in Florida, a physicist, a mortgage broker, a third-generation butcher who owns a meat-packing company, and a lovely ex-nurse who is Arthur’s friend; acting as his assistant for the trip. All three of the crew have been taking turns acting as my assistant and doing a good job for me. Continue reading