Bush pilot’s haircut

I’ve been traveling in Alaska for nearly two weeks and have another week of travel ahead, in California, before I return home. Long overdue for a haircut, I noticed a tiny shop beside the TSA entrance here at Anchorage airport: the Bush Pilots Barbershop. Two older men were seated inside, shooting the breeze, while Fox News blared loudly on the overhead television. Decades of memorabilia were pinned to the walls – photos of a younger barber holding a massive fish (95 pounds), well-fingered maps of Alaska, postcards from bush pilots, stuff animal heads, antlers, and more. What the heck. I’ll go all-in for the Alaska experience. I stepped inside, waited for a break in the conversation, and asked for a haircut.

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Chugach State Park

Many thanks to Steve – a fellow Dartmouth alum and long-time Anchorage resident – who took me along for a hike in Chugach State Park, on the east side of Anchorage.  We climbed up the slopes of O’Malley Peak and into an alpine plain called the “ballfield”, to an overlook of the Williwaw valley.  It was a beautiful day with plentiful sunshine and some clouds passing through the peaks.  Great views, near and far.   More photos in the gallery!

David at the overlook into the Williwaw valley, Chugach State Park, outside Anchorage.
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Katmai finale

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

The full group of photographers on our Muench Katmai Bears expedition. L to R: Kevin, Pam, Jeff, Gene, Jerry, Caryn, Jeff, Allen, Dave, Jack; kneeling: John. Photo by Kevin Lisota.
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Katmai, days 6-7

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Thursday (September 1) Geographic Harbor: We visited the beach (and bears) in the morning. It was a beautiful day, with the clouds passing over and through the hills surrounding the bay. Read on, though, for photos of the bears and other wildlife spotted this day!

Landscape (with bear), Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
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Katmai, days 4-5

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Tuesday (August 30) Kuliak Bay, Hidden Harbor, Geographic Harbor: An early breakfast allowed us to reach the beach by 8am, where an immature bald eagle was perched on driftwood as if waiting for a dozen photographers to capture its portrait. My favorite photo from the sequence came moments after it launched from its beachfront perch. What else did we see in the next two days? read on.

Bald eagle (immature) on shore at the head of Kuliak Bay.
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Katmai, day 3

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Monday (August 29) Kuliak Bay: Today we decided to move to another bay, also well known for bears: Kuliak Bay. So we spent a few hours motoring out from Geographic Harbor and Amalik Bay, then northeast through the Shelikof Strait along the Katmai coastline. It was a gorgeous day with calm seas and scattered clouds, with snow-capped peaks in the distance behind the coastal hills. Read on to see what we found in Kuliak Bay…

Panorama from offshore Katmai National Park – click to see fuller size.
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Katmai, day 2

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Sunday (August 28) Geographic Harbor: We rose for an early breakfast so we could return to the beach during low tide. Many bears were out today, as was another group of photographers. There are no lodges or cabins or roads with access to the extensive shoreline of Katmai National Park, so visitors all arrive by ship or plane and groups (like us) sleep on-board ships. Throughout the trip we were often the only group in a bay, and thus on shore; sometimes there was one (or maybe two) other boats sharing the same bay (and beach). Rarely, we’d see a small group of day-trippers arrive by floatplane. The guides, like our Captain Rob, all knew each other, and there was a tacit understanding that groups stayed out of the way of each other; still, it was sometimes possible to photograph bears as they passed by another group.

Coastal Brown Bear passing close to another group – Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
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Katmai National Park, Day 1

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

Brown bear, just after catching a salmon – Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park.

My father and I spent a week on a photography workshop in Katmai National Park, on the southern coast of Alaska west of Anchorage. The trip was organized by Muench photography workshops and was an outstanding opportunity to refine my photography skills in a beautiful setting – up close and personal with Alaskan brown bears as they feasted on the annual salmon run. We spent seven nights on the Dreamcatcher, a small ship that allowed us to anchor in several bays along the Katmai coastline, using its skiffs to visit shore two or three times daily. We saw dozens of bears, as they were feasting on the annual salmon run, up close and personal. I snapped over 8,000 photos and it will take me many weeks to find time to sort, process, and share them all – so I’ll share the best photos in future posts. For now, I’ll post retroactively in segments – with a few preliminary/teaser photos. Read on!

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Alaska

First visit in three decades.

In the first moments of my return to Alaska – my first visit in over three decades – the pilot announced there was a fine view to be seen on the port side. From the in-flight map I noted we were 36,000 feet over over Canada’s Kluane National Park, looking southwest into the Alaska panhandle. The scenery was awe-inspiring, with vast glaciers punctuated by rugged mountains:

Looking roughly southwest from a plane over Canada’s Kluane National Park..

Why am I headed for Alaska? I met my father there and we’re about to embark on a trip to Katmai National Park. Read on…

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