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.
Continue reading “Katmai, days 4-5”

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.
Continue reading “Katmai, day 3”

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.
Continue reading “Katmai, day 2”

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!

Continue reading “Katmai National Park, Day 1”

Bald eagle

Our new neighbor.

As I was rowing on the river this morning, I scanned the tall riverside trees to see whether I might see anything interesting, as is my habit. Unlike other days, today I spotted the telltale white head of a bald eagle, high in the branches of a distant dead snag. I turned around, headed home, grabbed my camera, and drove up the road to that location. This was a great opportunity to test my new 800mm lens!

Canon R5 with 800mm f/11 at 1/400, ISO 500, cropped

It appears to be a somewhat immature bald eagle – not fully developed with the all-white head of an adult. It stuck around as long as I would, and beyond. I hope to see it again sometime soon.

Eagles on ice

Nothing like a deer carcass to bring everyone together.

As I drove home today along the Connecticut River I noticed a dark object out on the ice – clearly, a carcass of some unfortunate deer. It was already attracting visitors that, from a glance, appeared to include a bald eagle. I dashed home to pick up my camera. When I returned, I found three bald eagles – one mature adult, and two juveniles – enjoying the spoils of this opportunity. Several crows were nearby, but were shooed away by the eagles whenever they came too close.

A bald eagle feeds on a carcass on the ice – and scolds a crow that tries to join in.

It was interesting to see that each eagle looked quite different – even the juveniles looked very different, perhaps of different ages. I also noticed the mature eagle flying alongside one juvenile several times. Family members? or rivals? hard to tell.

A pair of Bald eagles (one immature) flying (and fighting) beside the Connecticut River.

I shot well over six hundred photos, most of them out of focus – on my first visit it was snowing heavily and the snow wreaked havoc on the camera’s autofocus mechanism. But I returned later when the snow stopped and the sun came out. I saved a dozen decent photos for you in the gallery, where you can see each of the three eagles, sometimes together.

End of summer

Summer is winding down here in New Hampshire, with a spell of beautiful weather and fantastic river conditions.  The swimming is better than I can ever remember, and the morning mists make my morning row a luscious and mysterious experience.  I haven’t has as much time for hiking this summer as I’d hoped, because we are moving to Switzerland for the coming year.  Pam and Andy moved there two weeks ago, and I depart tomorrow!   I look forward to blogging about our experiences and travels in that beautiful country.

I’ve posted a small gallery of selected photos from the summer, plus a gallery highlighting the many bald eagles I’ve had the joy to see in the area (one highlight below).  And, a gallery of raptors from a brief visit to the nearby Vermont Institute of Natural Science during their “falconry” demonstration.

Bald eagle on the Connecticut River, NH.

Connecticut River paddle

Passing the Vermont town of Barnet.
Passing the Vermont town of Barnet.

We just returned from our third annual Connecticut River canoe trip [photos].  Two years ago we began at the Canadian border, visiting the river’s headwaters and the four Connecticut lakes; we put in at North Stratford (skipping the lakes and 60 miles of the river’s life as a shallow stream), and paddled for two days.  Last year we put in where we left off, and paddled for four days, ending at the Gilman Dam.  This year we launched below the dam and paddled for four days to Bedell Bridge State Park. Next year we hope to reach home! The trip gets better every year, as the Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail expands its network of campsites and published an outstanding new map. Read on!

Continue reading “Connecticut River paddle”

Eagle photos

Bald Eagle along the Connecticut River.No sign of “my” bald eagle on this morning’s row upriver.  Tonight I hopped in my kayak at sunset, armed with a tripod and my camera, and paddled downstream toward the site of last week’s amazing moonrise encounter with the eagle.  Within a few moments I could tell I was in luck: the eagle was clearly visible on the same tree.  The eagle watched me as I paddled around, seeking the best angle, shooting a hundred photos.  Gosh, this bird is big. When I came close, apparently too close, he became nervous and took off for a different roost.  In the photos (Smugmug gallery) I can tell that he (she?) is wearing a metal band on the right ankle.  I’ll try again in a few days, before sunset, when there is more light.

Sunrise: the eagle has landed

I rowed upriver in the chilly morning air, the river calm and sprinkled with the first fallen leaves of autumn. As I neared the Grant Brook confluence, where I usually turn around, the Vermont shore began to glow. After my long sweeping turn to point myself homeward, the sun completed its climb over Smarts Mountain in New Hampshire, momentarily blinding me. As I began to row, a solitary figure flapped its way in from the sunrise, following those first sunbeams as they reached the river. My friendly neighborhood bald eagle was back, swooping low over the water, skimming the spot where I had been thirty seconds earlier. He landed powerfully but only momentarily on shore; perhaps he caught his breakfast, as he immediately climbed again, circling over the river and landing in a solitary tree, soaking up the morning sun. 

See you again soon, I hope.