Alaska Revisited, Part 1

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I’m going to try a little something different over this next series of blog entries.  I will normally discuss the trips that I have gone on and the new images that have resulted from those trips.  I would honestly love to continue doing that, but if you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that currently, Toni and I are in the process of getting a new house put together and ready to move into.  That has really reduced the amount of time that I am able to get out and add new images to my portfolio.  Instead of letting things just sit idle during the two months or so that I will be otherwise occupied, Toni and I thought that it would be an interesting project to look at some of the images that I shot while I was in Alaska, way back in May of 2008.  So how did this come to be all of a sudden?

Well, while getting things cleaned out in the closets and such, I came across a box where I had stored all of my old digital negatives from when I was just getting started in photography.  The plan had been to load the RAW images onto CD’s and DVD’s for archiving purposes to keep them safe.  It was a great plan, but over the years I started to fill up a number of disks and that became a little too difficult to maintain.  I ended up switching over to an external hard drive solution with lots of redundancy built in which has served me much better since.  However, it was really cool to find this box in the closet and force myself to go through it.  Two of the disks contained the keepers that I had from my Alaska trip.  It hit me that while I was looking through these images I had actually been in Alaska 12 years ago during this same time period.  That was a really special realization for me and I felt connected with the images in a way that I had not in years.

I have often wanted to go and do some fresh edits on some of these images that never really did turn out all that great the first time around.  I had played some with tweaking the edits on the existing .tif files that I had on the computer, but that was not all that great of a solution.  I really needed to go from the RAW image and start from there, but digging that box out was going to be difficult as was going through all of the disks to find the files.  Since I had the box out and I was already looking through it, I decided to really look for those Alaska images which I found.  Well, I found a couple of disks of them.  I’m thinking that there were still some in another location though because a few of the ones that I had liked originally weren’t to be found on either disk.

I went ahead and imported them into Lightroom to start seeing if I could do anything special with them.  I had no intention of actually processing anything, I just wanted to see what was going to be possible with a couple.  About six hours later, I had actually gotten rough edits on each of the images that I was interested in playing with.  It was a lot of fun to go back through them, and I found a lot more to love about the images that I had come back with after doing another round of edits on them.

The original files were actually quite good considering that I was using my first DSLR, a Canon 40D that I had only been using for about five months at this point.  I was also just getting familiar with Photoshop so my editing skills were very rudimentary.  That being said, the RAW images were quite workable and technically quite good.  My composition ability was not as polished as it is now, but none of these I actually cringed at when I evaluated them for a second release.  I think that I had shot nearly 400 images for the eleven days that I was out there, and had saved just under 100 of them.  Of these hundred, some of the files were corrupt and wouldn’t import into Lightroom, and most of them were not quite what I would want to worry about a re-release.  The eighteen images that I did put back through the editing process I think turned out quite nice.

The series that we are about to embark on here in the blog is a highlight reel of those eighteen images.  I will talk about one at a time since I am looking at two months of no new images.  That should keep the blog and the website fresh during that time.  It will also be the first time that some of these images have been seen since the days I was part of the AOL Hometown Journals.  That was where my website was hosted in the beginning and I posted all of my keepers there where they remained until AOL shut the doors on their hosting services.  After that, I reduced the amount of images that I transferred over to my first self-hosted website.  When I let that go some years later and eventually started a new website through Blogger, even fewer of the images made it into the gallery.  Hey, they were all very dated at this point and I was producing much better images so I didn’t want to dilute the feel of the gallery.  Since that time, and after the switch to my current platform, I have been looking at these Alaska photos and have been feeling worse and worse about them.  This was going to be my opportunity to freshen that page, and add some images that haven’t been seen online in nearly ten years with brand new edits to them.

Without any further delay, let’s get into the first image of the series!

Seward and the Gull“, Canon 40D, 70-200mm f/4L, No filters

I am going to go in order of when they were actually shot.  This one was done on May 16th during a day cruise that I took out of Seward Harbor that you can see at the base of the mountain.  This was something completely different for me on several fronts.  First of all, I had never photographed anything from a boat in the ocean before.  I was going to have to deal with a lot of movement under my feet as well as just standard motion from hand holding the camera.  Even back then, I shot 99% of everything on a tripod and wasn’t all that well versed with hand holding.  The actual location was completely different for me as well.  I had never been to Alaska before, so the landscape was foreign to me, and being out in the water I was going to have a difficult time finding foreground interest.  However, I knew that there would be so much to shoot on the way I was excited to give it a try.  My basic idea was to boost the ISO to make sure that I had enough wiggle room in the shutter speed to make the images as sharp as they could be.  In hindsight, I could have gotten away with a much lower ISO but the noise on this 40D at the elevated ISO’s was actually quite well controlled.

This particular image was one that I had shared years ago, but for some reason it didn’t make it into my new gallery.  It was originally called Clearing Sky and it had a much warmer tone to it.  For this edit, I cooled the colors down a good bit and added a bit more sharpening to it for a little more presence.  The part that I really liked about this image and why I chose to give it a second lease on life was the fact that the sea gull came out so sharp in the image to the right of the mountain.  This really gave a sense of scale to the entire scene and the low cloud to the right balanced everything quite well.  The deep shadows of the lower elevations and Seward help to simplify the image and keep the focus on the natural beauty of the area.

I was absolutely stunned at the landscape in Alaska for the entire time that I was there.  I would have loved to spend more time with the camera on this trip but I was traveling with my first wife at the time and she wasn’t all that understanding of my want to photograph the beauty that I was seeing.  She was more interested in going to Walmart, the mall, and Barnes and Nobles.  Yes, I know we have those here in NC, but for some reason that was where she wanted to spend her time.  Anyway, I digress.  I do hope that you enjoy this new version of an old image and it will be new in the gallery as well.

To be continued…