Great Gray Portrait

Great Gray Portrait
Great Gray Owl

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fishermen vs Bears

Continuing our trip to Redoubt Bay; the weather was near ideal as it has been most of the summer.
At one end of Otter Lake there was a group of about 75 fishermen in small boats bunched up at one end of the lake and enjoying a lot of beer. 
The photo above is just a small sampling of the total number of fishermen. They each had to pay a lot of money to get  there but the lake's salmon were all in one small area and the fishing boats had to take turns to get close enough to fish. Most of the time was spent waiting and casting in vain. That explains the generous beer swilling. I suspect that many of these guys were not bothering to fish at all. It was party time. An annual event for many.
The abundance of spawning salmon caught the attention of some shore-bound fishermen. The boat guides got ready to peel out in an instant if the need should arise.
The salmon were all bunched up at the far end of the lake because they were staging to make a sudden dash up a small creek. The bears were awaiting their chance at the fish. The salmon had to survive the fishermen first, and then the bears. Not one salmon is going to survive in the end anyway. It is a one way journey for them.
The first bear was soon joined by its sibling. They made sure that the fishermen kept their distance.
The dominant bears in the area rule over the prime spots.
I desperately wanted to get photos of bears snatching fish but when a bear got a salmon it would either gobble it down in an instant or rush into the bushes with its prize. I could not mange to photograph the action.
I am pleased that I could get close enough to bears to get good photos.
Some of the less dominant bears dared not enter the water.
"Are you lookin at me?" "Not me boss".
Tools of the trade.
This photo reminds me of my old dog. Only this dog weighs about ten times more than my old Golden Retriever weighed.
The bear shook itself dry and dove right back underwater.
There is still more to come from Redoubt Bay.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Across the Inlet Again

Just like this time last year I showed up at Lake Hood early in the morning and climbed into the front passenger seat of a floatplane. The pilot, myself, my friend Cheyenne, and two other couples from the lower 48 headed across Cook Inlet. This time we headed to a different location.
We flew over several pods of Beluga Whales. It has been many years since I have seen Belugas.
On the far side of Cook Inlet we saw lots of majestic scenery. I do not know the name of this river.
Another anonymous river, this one is milky from glacial melt.
In about 45 minutes we flew through a gap in the mountains and descended to the lake, (Otter Lake) dead ahead.
Our destination, Redoubt Bay Lodge, where we transferred to a pontoon party boat. 
I forget the name of the boat guide, but he was the prototypical Alaskan Outdoorsman.
He took us across the lake to look at a beautiful waterfall. We heard loud crashing noises with ominous growling coming from behind the trees. The tops of the trees were shaking violently and several of them crashed to the ground.
Soon we saw what we came to see, a large coastal Brown Bear.
It walked in and out of the vegetation along the lake shore. We followed along in the boat.
It came out in the open for a short while. The guide recognized this bear. He said that he sees it every day. By the way I spotted a large Black Bear in Anchorage on the way to work this morning.
It moved along at a good clip.
There is more to come from this trip to Redoubt Bay Lodge.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hot off the Easel

The painting that I completed last week, (Parakeet Auklets) inspired me to do another painting from the Pribilofs. One that I might actually sell someday. A Tufted Puffin painting. This was one of my main reference photos.
This was another.
I wanted to do a bold composition so I tried an unconventional approach, (for me at least). Does this look like a complete painting? It took very little time to paint.
A look at the bird's feet.
The puffin's head. I just could not leave the painting as it was. I felt that I needed to add something. My first idea was to add some kind of rock formation in the background, on one side or the other.
In the end I chose to add puffins in flight. Is this any better than the first version? What do you think? It is another 11x14" painting. The varnish is still wet on this one. I have no title for it yet.
If all goes according to plan, my next post will be a good one. I am about to leave on my big summer adventure. I am still trying to decide which camera to bring.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Vertigo, 11x14"

My newest painting is inspired by the trip I took to the Pribilof Islands about three years ago. Use the search engine on this blog to read about that trip. Type, 'The Remote Pribilofs' to start with the first post.
It was cold, windy, foggy, and rainy nearly the entire time that we were there. Cozying up to the slippery edge of the cliffs to photograph nesting seabirds certainly gave me a sense of vertigo.
The species of bird that is the subject of my latest painting is the cute but obscure, Parakeet Auklet.
Parakeet Auklets are probably the most widespread and common species of Auklet in the Pacific Northwest. They are not shy on the nesting cliffs.
Since they were such cooperative subjects I shot many photographs of them.
Parakeet Auklets were far more numerous on the Pribilofs than their close cousins the Crested Auklets.
However they were not nearly as numerous as the Murres. These Thick-billed Murres keep company with a single Parakeet Auklet. Thick-billed Murres are known as Brunnich's Guillemots in the Old World.
I chose this fat Auklet as one of my subjects for the painting.
This was also one of my subjects.
My version of the fat Auklet. I removed the tiny rain droplets that I initially painted. They did not look right.
Another detail shot.
The entire painting, Vertigo, 11x14". It is the first, and almost certainly the only Parakeet Auklet painting that I am likely to do. Although I like the painting just fine. I believe that the nondescript subject matter will make it very difficult to sell.
It did inspire me to start a related painting, (Tufted Puffin) also from my Pribilof trip.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Painting Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep are the version of Big Horn Sheep that inhabit the far north. They haunt the mountain slopes all around this part of Alaska. The photo above was taken by Bart Quimby, a friend from my Eagle River days. He gave me permission to use his photos in my paintings.
I knew right away that I would end up using this photo in a painting someday.
This was my first attempt. A nice enough little painting although it is not much like the photo.
Bart managed to get much closer to Dall Sheep than I have gotten. At least on the occasions when I had a camera with me.
This is another photo that I wanted to use in a painting.
The fog caught up with this ewe. That sparked an idea in my head that took years to fully mature in my mind.
In the meantime I did a few other Dall Sheep paintings. This 9x12" study was painted in black and white.
This 11x14" canvas was the very first Dall Sheep painting that I did in 1997.  I did this painting before I ever saw Bart's Dall Sheep photos.
A different 11x14" version of the previous painting.
A much more ambitious canvas followed a few years later. It is 24x36".
A better attempt at 16x20".
Finally I decided that it was time to use the photo of the fog enshrouded ewe in a new painting. I gave it a younger sister for good measure.
I gave her two more sisters just out of the fog. The ewe on the right is actually the same fog enshrouded ewe, taken before the fog arrived.
Next I added a ram to complete the composition. I kind of like this 24x18" painting that incorporates three of Bart's photos. It only took a little over a week to complete. It was a fun challenge to paint the increasing intensity of light, color and detail from back to front. The working title is, 'Upslope'. Can you think of a better title? Let me know.
I am already about half way done with a new 11x14" painting of Parakeet Auklets.