Sunday, July 27, 2008

Landscapes from this Summer

Sleeping Lady is what the locals call this mountain. It was taken at Gull Rock, near Hope, AK on Turnagain Arm early in the summer.

Rainbow over McHugh peak, Seward Hwy, Potter Marsh, South Anchorage, AK

Building Trail

The mystery is over. Here it is the Blue Berry Trail. The summer job. This is a brand new mountain biking trail located above ch. 7 in the woods. It hasn't been finished and is expected to open next summer. Our crew began construction on it May 20th, 2008. I have done trail work for several years and its definitely the most unique project I've ever worked on. A good portion of it is elevated structures, all made from trees at Alyeska. The boards were all milled at the end of last summer and the stringers are small spruce and hemlock from the surrounding forest.

In this picture Lawrence is assisting a load being pulled up to the trail from ch. 7. He came up with the idea of using a pulley attached to a large tree at the trail level, and one end of the cable is on the load, the other end attached to a ATV (in the background) that is pulling the load up.

Lisa is trimming up the edges of some of the elevated tred with a chain saw.

Looks fun, doesn't it?

Shooting Sara Horvath

This picture was taken in an alley in downtown Missoula. I exposed for the background and powered down my flash a little to not wash her face out. I use Adobe Lightroom for most of my post-processing, and I changed it from color to a preset called aged photo. I really like this look, and have used this preset for a lot of Sara's portraits.
These next two images are a great way to take advantage of a bright sunny day. I like to pose my subject in a back-lit situation when the lighting causes hard shadows. I always shoot manually pay close attention to my meter, which I usually set on Spot. In this case I exposed(zeroed out my meter) for her face, which was in the shade. This caused her face to be properly exposed and the background to overexpose.

I pretty much did the opposite in this situation and underexposed this to get a silhouette effect. I also changed this to aged photo and increased the blacks to completely get rid of any detail in the black area.

This was taken at Fort Missoula on the old fire lookout tower. I changed this to a high contrast blank and white image in Lightroom.

For those of you who are familiar with the Wilma, and old theater in Missoula, I thought it would be appropriate to have a Sara posed in front of it. I think her day dreaming stare is fitting for this picture. I hope to see her play at the Wilma one day.

This was also taken on the Lookout tower at Fort Missoula.

These next three pictures I changed in Lightroom to a preset called punch which seems to increase the color saturation.

Bubbles, trial and error to catch this picture.

She's got such an eclectic style. I love it.
Elementary School up the Rattlesnake.

Lookout tower at Fort Missoula.

A nice departing shot

Sara used this on the back of her first album called "Speechless."

Thanks for all of the comments and emails about the blog. I have had several folks mention they want to see some of my more recent work. Well the truth is I haven't been shooting as much as I'd like to this summer. Its been the coldest summer I've ever seen and I have to admit lighting often drives my inspiration to take photos. I have several intentions with this blog. I hope to share my favorite pictures with all of my friends as well as share some of the secrets about how I took the pictures or what I did in Light room or photoshop. I think of photography as an art and I enjoy looking at other people's work and trying to figure out how they took the picture and what type of manipulations they did during post processing. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask.

I was back in Missoula for a quick weekend in May and I met with my favorite Missoula musician, Sara Horvath, and did a quick shoot at Fort Missoula. Sara has been my favorite model. She is really comfortable in front of the lens and has all kinds of creative ideas. I met Sara on Higgins St. last summer while I was in the photography program. I was riding my bike home, when I saw her sitting on her car playing the guitar with her hair back-lit. The light was perfect and one of the things I was working on all summer was asking complete strangers if I could take their picture. After taking a few shots and talking with her, she asked if I was interested in shooting an album cover for her. Since our meeting I have done five different shoots with her. Sara has been a huge inspiration for me, mostly because I think we are both is a similar place in our lives. We are both trying to make it as artists and share our love for our art with the world. She has produced one album with four of her original songs. She used the picture of her walking on the train tracks on the back of her album. You can hear her music at

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Big Guns

Gun 2 cache. Hilliard is handing up cap and fuse to make up the howitzer rounds. Hiding behind the gun mount while shooting at Center Ridge. Center Ridge is the closest target for gun 2, and this is done out of caution for in case a small of a piece of shrapnel might hit the gun mount.
Firing Gun 2 at the Shadows/Headwall area. Often these gun mission are done in the dark or in a storm, and the sight points are recorded as numbers. It is rare to actually see what the gun is shooting at, and requires a developed ear to hear if the bullet caused an avalanche and how large it might be.
This is a picture of a patroller standing in avalanche debre in New Years Creek just one day after a huge slide was triggered in the Monies area in the top center of this picture. You can just barely make out the crown line which was estimated to be about 20 feet deep. The slide was triggered by Gun 4 on the North Face and it ran to the top of the Autobahn. This was the largest slide I have ever witnessed.

Avalanche Control

"Bomb Make Up" This is usually done inside, but on this day we had a heli ride to the headwall, and when transporting in the helicopter we keep the cap/fuse sperate from the the 2lb charges. Byron with a 4lbs shot ready to place at the top/starting zone, or on the edge of where an avalanche might be. This set up with the charge taped to the bamboo is called an airblast because the bamboo keeps the explosive above the snow and the explosion generates more force throughout the slab, as opposed to throwing the shot into the snow. The snow ends up absorbing more of the forces and in our wet/Merritime snowpack is virtually in-affective, where as the airblast has become a standard at Alyeska. These shots are only used to clean up small pockets that could potentially slide. Only after a gun mission or after using the bomb trams to reduce the large scale hazard enough to ski into these areas. Don't worry mom, we know what we're doing. Byron just after pulling the "spitters," (igniters. )This is a picture of Andy after igniting the shot and returning to a safe spot. Each shot is 1 minute 45 seconds, plenty of time to get back to your safe spot. His safe spot in this case is the ridge line. "Fire in the hole." My favorite thing to yell out , just seconds before the blast. This is on the headwall ridge with Max's peak behind the explosion on the left.
When I started working for the Alyeska Ski Patrol about five years ago. I didn't realize the extent of what was involved to keep Alyeska's lifts running. I knew that they used a few 105 howitzers guns, and some other small explosives, but I had no idea how it all worked. I remember one of my first few days, carrying signs and bamboo around, putting up rope lines down LoLo's and the North Canyon line. I was just trying to get used to skiing in two feet of mashed patatoes while carrying 30lbs on my shoulder while trying my hardest to not blow my knee out. What on earth had I gotton myself into? I would come home eat a few pounds of food, crash hard, and then do it all over again the next day. On storm days I would hear on the radio, "fire in the hole, Index, one minute," Or "I'm clear, moving." Where is that? What are they doing?

Up until this first year on patrol, my experience with avalanche terrain, and evalutating conditions was pretty much the opposite of what avalanche control is about. I had always been taught to avoid these conditions. If its blowing and snowing stay away from anything steeper than 30 degrees, you just shouldn't be there. I had taken a level 1 avalanche class the winter before, and had been backcountry skiing for a few years, and everything in my gut was apposed to this ides of creating avalanches.

Slowly over the next few months I would get to watch two or three patrollers on Center Ridge, or the High Traverse. I'd hear their calls on the radio, and then watch for the avalanche. Near the end of this first year I was getting trained on snow conditions and terrain and making ski cuts in small localized pockets on the south face. Alyeska's terrain is extremely steep, the weather unpredictable, and the quantity of snow so massive at times, I was stuggling with all of the factors that go into "snow safety work."

Somewhere between my forth and fifth season something clicked. Its not something I can describe, but rather just know is there. It was all starting to make sense. Although the mystery hadn't been solved, I was just learning how to approach it without fear completely overwhelming me. Like everything in life it is just a matter of time and experience in order to trust your own judgment, and make confident decisions. I have to thank Scoot Hilliard and Jim Kennedy for all of their patients and training. It's still a learning process.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Enduring the Elements

I love these three pictures because they show some of the conditions that we often work in while patrolling. The first picture was taken on the Prow just above the north face during a large wet storm cycle. The two patrollers in the foreground are in the process of lowering ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil) which is made up into a 50 lbs charges and lowered a few hundred feet on a sled into an area called the Knuckles.

The next image was taken on a control route in area called the Knuckles, where the partrol places 2 lbs shots on small localized slabs.

I love this picture. "Pad" is hunkering down from the rotor wash of one of the many helicopter rides patrol had for access of the Headwall area, which is located above the established ski area. This was the first time in Alyeska history to have helicopter access available for avalanche control work in this area, and to help set up the venues for all three extreme comps hosted at Alyeska this past spring.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Views From the Office

Here are few of my favorite views from Alyeska. This patrol shack is located at top of chair 6 which used be chair 2, and is known as "the top of 2." In the winter it is common to have a strong inversion where the Girdwood valley and Turnagain arm are filled with a thick cloud layer and the temperature can often be 10 - 30 degree cooler than at the top of 2.

December 21st is the shortest day of the year Northern Hemisphere's . In Girdwood there is about five hours of daylight and sunrise is as late as 10am, which is why Alyeska doesn't open until 10:30 each morning. For the first half of the season I get to see the sunrise and on this day the moon set. This is also a view of Turnagain Arm and the Seward Hwy in the foreground, taken from the top of 2 just before sunrise.

This picture was taken from the top of the Tram looking up the Chair 6 lift line at the top of 2.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Winter 07-08

I love how the winter season is described by two separate years. I guess one year isn't quite long enough, we need two. In Girdwood our ski season is suppose to start somewhere around Thanksgiving and and wrap up about mid-April. The 07-08 Alyeska season opened the weekend prior and closed the last weekend in April, and could have kept going well into May. Our total snowfall for the season was above average with a depth of 875" at the top. Average being about 650 inches.

This winter marked my fifth year on ski patrol at Alyeska and I have never seen a season quite like this one. The combination of tons of precipitation and a new owner at Alyeska allowed ski patrol to open a lot of terrain I have only dreamed of skiing. The headwall was open for a total of 11 days and the Monies was open for 12, neither of which I have ever had the pleasure of making turns down before. We hosted two free-skiing events and one extreme snowboarding event, and each had an opportunity on the headwall. Our snow safety program was given a heli budget and we were able to get over a dozen rides to the new weather station on the headwall and to the Max's weather station to start our avalanche control routes from the top down.

I carried my Nikon D200 in my pack almost everyday at work unless it was raining. A good portion of the control work I was involved with on a regular basis was on Center Ridge and High Traverse. I found it difficult to photograph because of the early morning low light and pressure to get the route finished before 10:30am. Also there are very few terrain features to give those images depth, so I found my best pictures were taken on the headwall routes, the North Face and the Monies.

The first picture is of a mountain called Little League in the back-country on the other side of the headwall. Skiers unknown. The next image was storm day on Ch.1 early in the morning before the mountain opened. The last picture is of a patroller placing a hand charge on the Monies route to reduce avalanche hazards.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back to AK

After completion of the Summer Intensive program at RMSP in Missoula last summer I returned to Alaska to work for APU to teach two courses. One was an expedition class for the Outdoor Studies department called Expedition Leadership which was most of last September in the Talkeetna Range. I briefly described this trip in my first blog entry with a few pictures. Following this course I taught two beginning photography classes for Liberal Studies during the session portion of the semester at APU. Both of these classes focused on understanding how to read light and capture a well exposed image on black and white film. I find this such a great way to learn photography, unlike the instant digital feedback the darkroom process is much slower and more thought out. I believe it makes students think more about how a camera meter reads light before their finger releases the shutter. I also like how one roll of film has 24 frames, which seems to be more cherished than a 2 GB memory card that can be deleted and reused. This permanent picture can help someone learn to compose a scene with more care and forethought than its digital counter part. I have to admit I am a little more reckless with my digital camera than with my 35mm SLR. I look forward sharing this fading art form once again this fall, and I hope that my students will value their time in the darkroom.

The crow picture was taken in Missoula as well as the tree reflection picture. The bear prints are actually baby bear prints and were taken on the Talkeetna trip in Alaska last fall. All of my pictures were changed to black and white, sepia or manipulated slightly in Adobe Lightroom. Despite my large appreciation for B & W film/darkroom most of my photography is digital mostly because its less expensive, less time consuming, and easier to share on the web. I believe both film and the digital medium are both important to the photography world, and each have their own benefits and limitations.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Missoula Talent

These next few pictures are of some local performers and my favorite Montana Musician, Sara Horvath. Check out what she is up to and listen to her most recent recordings on

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Missoula adventure

Most rewarding activity when its almost 100 degrees in Missoula: Floating the Blackfoot Rivers. Missoula is also home to an incredible skate park.

Missoula Favorites

Here are few different collections of work from my schooling in Missoula last summer.