Windows on My World   17 comments

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I’m primarily a writer, but I take photos in my private life and I live in a beautiful corner of the world.

You’re familiar with my photography. It shows up on my blog and almost every book cover I create has a portion of one or more of my photos as part of the collage that creates the image. In my most recent cover reveal, the headlights in the background are my contribution.

Yes, look up at the top of my blog page and you’ll see this photo, which I (or possibly my husband or my daughter) took from a friend’s deck one frigid Alaska night. We set the camera on a tripod and we wandered in and out of the warmth hoping to get just the right shot. Aurora photography is tricky – you essentially block the aperture open and shoot frames at periodic intervals. You manually count the seconds of exposure, varying them to try and get the perfect shot. You can overexpose it, underexpose it or jiggle the camera just slightly and ruin an amazing shot. So, even though I don’t know exactly which of us took this photo, I set up the camera so it wouldn’t jiggle, so I’m taking credit for it. And it’s an amazing picture.

Chena Hot Springs Resort on a sunny day and, yes, I stood in a snow bank to get the shot. It’s COLD here in the winter, but it was probably a warm day because of the lack of fog and I willingly got out of the water. I just love the tones in this photo. The shot wasn’t taken with a filter, but the tones are so perfect some people assume I did. I just picked the right time when the sun dodged behind a horsetail cloud. Although this is our unwinding place, the photo itself is the essence of adventure photography, letting the environment dictate the shot rather than technological manipulation.

I’m pretty sure that’s my husband with the net. Could be our friend Nate who accompanied us on that trip. It’s a place called Chitina and it’s where we harvest our winter fish supply (note the salmon in the net). I climbed to another rock like what he’s on to get a good shot. If you look down to the lower left, you can see a dip in the water — that’s an eddy that could eat a large car. Fall in that river and you die. Life preservers would just allow you to circle the eddy one or twice before it sucked you under. The dark-humor Copper River joke is “Tying off to the bank just makes it easier to recover your body.”

I love that I juxtaposed the gray of the river (looks icy, doesn’t it – about 35F degrees) and the subtle brown variations of the rocks, catching a hint of green in the background, but I’m mostly proud that I went there to take the photo. I caught salmon on that trip too.

My husband always points out that a lot of our photos of him engaging in risky behavior were taken by me, which means I was doing dangerous things. It’s an Alaska thing. We weigh our risks, but we live life. We try to mitigate the dangers which are sometimes pretty scary, but we don’t stay home because we’re afraid. We live life.

The large version of my author photo. Taken using a backpack as a tripod, I set up the shot with a timer. My husband stood beside me (he got cropped for the author pic) and I’m laughing because he’s cracking jokes. The pipeline behind me is the Davidson Ditch, a 48-inch aqua duct built in 1922 to supply water to the gold dredges north of Fairbanks, my home town. It’s defunct now (as are the dredges), but is still an incredible piece of engineering and served as a model for the TransAlaska Pipeline. Where this shot is taken is a quarter-mile hike on snowshoes from the highway. It’s about 50 miles out of town over two pretty impressive uplands. We’re just on the edge of our cabin-site at that point. Although it looks like it was winter and therefore cold, it was a warm late-March or early-April day and above freezing, hence why I’m not bundled up. Those black straps on my shoulders – I was armed against spring bears.

That’s another example of living life.

This snap was taken along the Denali Highway – which is really an unpaved one-and-half lane 130-mile-long goat trail, but you can drive on it with a passenger vehicle so Alaskans call it a highway. I took the snap because my son – age 2 (he’s now 21) — was riding in the truck and had been silent all the way from Fairbanks (he really didn’t discover talking until he was 3). My thoughts focused on stopping for the night and setting up camp, so I took the sunset for granted when he pointed out the window and said “Oh, wow!”. The kid was right. It needed to be recorded. In the couple of minutes it took to park the truck and get out the camera, the wow had already faded a little (the mountains were brighter when he proclaimed their glory), but it’s still an amazing shot — not so much because of how I took it (it was a lucky snap), but because Alaska is God’s artistic playground. I’m proud I got it, but I’m prouder still that we were there. My husband’s leave from working the Pipeline got canceled when we had this trip planned, so I packed the kids (age 8 and 2) and the dogs into the truck and went anyway. We had a great time with a different pace than if my husband had been along and I count it as one of my fondest memories of living life.

I turn 60 this winter and while I don’t intend to stop living life, some of the things I used to do effortlessly are becoming more difficult, so I recognize that some of these photos may not be attainable by me in the future. I’m glad I’ve lived my life and set fear into a back corner of my mind so that I could see, photograph and write about some of the incredible places just around the bend.

Posted September 28, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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17 responses to “Windows on My World

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  1. How lucky you were to capture the aurora borealis! I’d love to see that, and for you it’s an everyday occurrence!

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    • For six months out of the year, it can happen any night — usually when it’s way cold outside. It’s just a coincidence, but aurora-watching is always accompanied by some degree of pain. We can’t see the aurora in the summer. I caught just a slight flicker in the sky last night that might have been aurora. We just passed (on September 21) from +12 hours a day of sunlight to +12 hours a day of night and you need dark skies to see the lights. Should be lots of great viewing this year since the city has decided our neighborhood doesn’t need street lights anymore. I’m not sure who made that burglar-encouraging decision, but us aurora-watchers are applauding the darkness it provides.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We had our first display just now. We stood out on the deck and wished the City hadn’t just decided to turn on the street lights. Yeah, maybe Big Brother is watching us. 🙂 I mention it to you yesterday and, boom, they turned on the lights. Then God decides to give us a show. Still just white streaks, not worth setting up the camera for, but it’s like a hallmark of the season.

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  2. I loved the shots, but the river one, for some reason I heard the ghost of Bob Ross saying “And right here between these rocks let’s put a happy little river. A touch of black with some white and lithium blue, not too dark. Load up the edge of your fan brush and… You could put some rapids in here, and look what I’ve done…it’s an eddy that will suck your ass down in a heartbeat. See there are no mistakes, just happy little accidents… It’s your world… You could drown your boss in there, or maybe a neighbor…”

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    • Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Love Bob Ross, who probably went fishing in Chitina when he lived in North Pole back in the day. I can almost hear him saying something like that if he were painting the Copper River. It’s not his typical bucolic scene, but it would be a great place to get rid of your boss’s body.

      My husband went in it once when he was standing knee deep with hip waders and the silt shelf gave way. He was in over his head, his hip waders full of water when our Labrador presented her broad back for him to hang on. She couldn’t get them to shore, but she held them against the current long enough for our friend to extend his dipnet to its fullest extent and pull them into shallow water. Brad was shaking and numb by the time he was onshore. Time in the water — about two minutes by our friend’s estimation.

      But it’s still exhilarating to stand on one of those rocks and have a 15-pound king salmon hit the net at the end of a 12-foot long telescoped landing pole. When I was 105 pounds I sometimes wondered if I was going upstream with the salmon and I’ve twisted the net a few times to let the bigger ones go free because I knew I couldn’t win that fight. Now I’ve got a couple more pounds in the caboose and I don’t worry about the fish winning as much as I worry about getting hypothermia from how cold the stainless steel pole gets. It’s definitely not pleasure fishing, but the salmon in the middle of winter is HEAVEN.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The picture of your husband fishing reminds me of some of the camping trips we went on years ago. We were up on a ledge and my husband was pointing out the spot in the river where he had been fishing (with no luck) when a bear walked out of the woods, stopped at that same spot, reached into the river, and pulled out a salmon. Then walked away.

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    • I know, they’re so much better at fishing than we are. I think it’s their sense of smell — and 18-inch long nails.

      We’ve never seen bears along the Copper River. They can’t swim the river any more than we can. But we’re really careful about our guts when we’re harvesting there — just in case. we have seen bears in other places. My husband was chased by one on our cabin-site land once. Thank goodness grizzlies are afraid of chainsaws.

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  4. Some great pictures, particularly the last one. And I love the idea of a winter fish supply.

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    • This year the fishing was sparse. My husband is something of a legend with the Chitina charter boats. He catches our limit when everyone else is struggling. He only got 7 of 45 this year, but seeing as everyone else on the boat got skunked, he felt really good. So this year, it’s not really a supply. It’s more like an occasional treat. He says I need to go next year because then we can keep the net in the water the entire 24 hours, sleep in shifts.

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  5. These are really wonderful shots, Lela. I love pictures of water and also chose to feature water orientated pictures this week.

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  6. Gorgeous pics! Where I live is so comparatively flat. Beautiful beaches and forests, but no mountains.

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