Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Friday, September 30, 2011

Let's Go to the Kenai

These first photos were taken by Scott from his plane. The scenery is the Kenai Peninsula. I'm not sure if this is Kenai Lake, or Skilak Lake. The milky color is glacier meltwater.
When I first moved to Alaska, this landscape would probably have had many more Spruce trees in it. I arrived to the state in the middle of a major Spruce Bark Beetle infestation. It hit the Kenai especially hard, and devastated large Stands of Spruce trees all over the peninsula.
Shortly thereafter, there were many huge forest fires that burnt off the dead trees, and caused Birch trees to flourish.
The famous Kenai River is well loved by fishermen and women because of the huge runs of salmon that arrive most years. Fishing quotas are set by the numbers of each species that show up in a given summer. That number can vary greatly from year to year.
Salmon also attract bears. There are lots of interactions between bears and people along the Kenai and Russian Rivers. A few people get mauled, and a lot of bears get shot. Most meetings end peacefully for both parties.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of lakes on the Kenai Peninsula. Many of them have very stagnant water that is unsafe to drink. I'm not real sure of the cause other than extensive, boggy habitat.
The water in the mountains tends to be safer than the water out on the flat areas.

The rest of these photos were taken by me on the ground. Driving south from Anchorage, the highway snakes along the edge of Turnagain Arm, which is part of Cook Inlet. It got it's name when Captain Cook tried to sail along the coast. He had to turn back because of shallow water and treacherous currents.
After about 50 miles, Turnagain Arm ends, and the highway turns onto the Kenai Peninsula.

A single shaft of sunlight hits the mountainside beside the highway. The whole area abounds with wildlife.
We took a fork in the road near here, that heads to the miniscule community of Hope.
If you look carefully along the edge of the water in right of this photo, you can see the buildings of the town. There is a one room schoolhouse, a few small lodges, and a smattering of homes. That's Hope.
This is the beach just out of town, looking across Turnagain Arm to the mainland. The beach is not made up of sand, but mud. There are seldom any waves to speak of.
Most of the year, this is a bleak coastline.
Today I found this cold, Mourning Cloak Butterfly. It's about half the size of the Mourning Cloaks in the lower 48.
Eventually it warmed up in the sun, and opened it's wings.

The  crisp, Autumn light was harsh, so it was a challenge to get a pleasing photo. The butterfly soon flew off, but it's days are numbered with temperatures predicted to drop soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Glorious Day on the Trail

This morning I had every intention of getting some work done. Since I did'nt manage to do a lick of work yesterday, I felt a little guilty for being so idle.
While I was eating breakfast, the local weather report said that today was going to be the only sunny day for the forseeable future. That sealed the deal for me. I knew I needed to get out and enjoy what may be the last nice day of the year.
The photo above shows what the Coastal Trail looks like right now. Although it's bright and sunny, the temperatures are a little cool as you can see by the coats that these women are wearing. They were overdressed as far as I'm concerned. It was'nt that cold, low 50'sF. The mudflats lie to the right of the trees in the photo. The railroad tracks are to the left. The city of Anchorage is on the other side of the tracks.
My main concentration today was to photograph critters amid the brightly colored fall leaves. There were several Red Squirrels in the trees growing next to the trail.
Many of the songbirds are already out of here, but Common Redpolls are one species that stays around all year. If this bird would have stayed in place for one or two more photos, I could have gotten it in better focus. Nevertheless, this is exactly the kind of photo I was aiming for.
This is another (preening) Redpoll that was much more cooperative. The setting is not quite so scenic as the former photo, but it still looks good.
This little male posed for many photos. This one is as good as any of them.
It was a bit of a surprize to me, to see some Rusty Blackbirds still around. Even more surprizing was a Varied Thrush along the Chester Creek Greenbelt.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are another species that stays all year. This one is either depositing some winter food storage under the bark, or searching for a tasty insect for lunch.
Westchester Lagoon was at it's usual picture perfect best today. This photo does'nt show it, but there were still plenty of ducks on the lake today. Most of them were too far away for photos.
Turning to look the other direction, I got this photo of the choo-choo passing by. The Bonaparte's Gull in the foreground does'nt seem to be too concerned by the train's loud whistle.

There were more Bonaparte's around today than usual. They will be gone in a short time. I was surprized that there were still a few Greater Yellowlegs around. Things are heading south in droves these days.
Nowadays ducks are far enough along in their annual moult that you can easily tell their sexes apart. I've been seeing this one female Shoveler in the same area on Westchester for about a month or more.
The last time I went to Westchester, I saw well over a hundred Gadwalls. Today there were nine. This male is all done with his moult. Not colorful, but very elegant.
A female Greater Scaup. Female Greaters usually have a white cheek patch, while female Lessers do not. You can tell by the shape of this bird's head, that it is a Greater Scaup. It is probably a young duck that is just growing into adult plummage. That may explain the lack of a cheek patch.

These male, Mallards are almost completely out of their moult. Are they older adults, or young of the year just coming into adult colors? I have no idea.
My latest painting. An Ermine, 8x10". I looked for the Ermine today that I saw twice this summer on the Coastal Trail, but I missed it.
A detail of it's head.
 I sold two older paintings today, A red-throated Loon, and a Red-necked Grebe. I also got a comission to paint a Harpy Eagle. I guess my career is'nt entirely dead after all.

Monday, September 26, 2011

More of Scott's Great Photos

Last Autumn Scott flew out into the Alaska bush to take in the colors of the tundra.

A lot of the tundra vegetation is made up of dwarf trees. They are deciduous and turn bright colors in the fall, just like their full sized cousins.
Tundra produces an abundance of berries of many kinds. Every fall, people head up to the tundra to gather berries. Blueberrys are everybodies favorite. Berries help to fatten up Grizzly Bears so they can hibernate through the winter.
A nice sample of berries for making jam, or just eating fresh.

Besides berry bushes and dwarf trees, much of the tundra is made up of mosses, lichens, and ground-hugging flowers. It can be a wildly colorful palette.
The fantastical plants in the movie Avatar were not any more exotic than the tundra jungle. I have painted it many times.
Although I did'nt give it any thought before I moved up to Alaska, tundra proved to be an unexpected delight.
The photo above, and the photos that follow, are some Autumn scenes that I photographed in past years. This fall, I have been experimenting with shooting in RAW format. I have not figured out how to put those photos up on the blog yet.
A photo of the sunlit mountains of theAlaska Range, in the state's interior.
Another view of the bright mountains.
Right now we are seeing termination dust on the local mountaintops. This snow indicates the termination of Summer. Beautiful but foreboding.
The choo-choo chugs it's way past Denali National Park, headed to fairbanks.
The Matanuska River. I apologize if I have already posted some of these photos last fall. I just dont remember. Senility is catching up with me I guess.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Finishing Up the Photo Album

Spotted Owl, 11x14".
It's been years since I've even looked at the photos of old paintings in the photo album. So these paintings look fresh to me. They represent a good chunk of my creative history. I'm not sure whether I have improved at all as a painter. It seems that you gain ground in one area, and lose it in another.
 There were (Mexican) Spotted Owls in the White Mountains in Arizona, where I lived for 19 years. They were restricted to a few remote canyons along the Mogollon Rim. I went looking for them several times, with no luck.
Ice Age Survivor, 16x20". I later added snow to the moose's face, and made the painting look much better.
Coyotes, 16x20". I dont remember the official name of this one, but Coyotes, along with Elk, were a favorite subject of mine when I lived in Arizona. Sparrows have really been one of my favorite all time subjects to paint, but they are hard to sell.
Northern Hawk Owl and Ermine, 11x14". My latest painting is an Ermine in Summer colors, but I have'nt posted that one yet.

Another Sitka Black-tailed Deer. It is 16x20". Naturally I cant remember it's title. My nephew's old boss, Mark, (the same guy I accompanied to Mendeltna Creek this summer) purchased this one years ago.
Western Sandpipers, 11x14". I really enjoy painting shorebirds as well.
Caribou family, 16x12". Another ballpoint pen drawing.
Being a Bear, 20x16". Another Black Bear and waterfall painting. I like the bear, but not the waterfall, so I left it out of the photo.
Red on Green, 16x20". This was a popular painting, that drew a lot of positive attention. The photo of this, and many of these paintings, looks darker than the paintings actually were. This is because I was trying to reduce the harsh contrasts that photos of paintings often create.

Gray Ghosts, 24x36". This was one of the first paintings that I did after moving to Alaska. It sold immediately. A nice paycheck for me. Large paintings like a 24x36", are usually very difficult to sell. That is why I seldom do them.
Fishing Alaska, 20x24". This is a detail of a larger painting. It is hanging in the office of a local doctor who has a number of my paintings.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 12x9". The leaves are Black Cottonwood. They are turning gold right now around these parts.

Gray Jay, Rainy Day, 16x20". Another painting set in Autumn colors, but with raindrops.

An early Snowy Owl painting. I forget the size and title. This painting once looked much different. I set out to make a few adjustments with it, and ended up re-painting everything except the upper right hand corner. The improvements made a big difference.