Yukon Reflections

Today my 5th visit to the Yukon is over. After 24 days in this majestic land, I’m heading home on Air Canada on a route that has by now become familiar to me. I’ll process some photos, write a bit, read a good novel (right now I’m reading Eventide, the sequel to the acclaimed Plainsong by Kent Haruf)), and begin thinking about my next visit.

Take Our Workshop!

Which brings up an interesting point. Richard Hartmier (www.hartmier.com)  and I are planning a photo tour of the Yukon next summer, stretching over the Labor Day weekend, when the Fall colors should be at their prime. If any of you have an interest in seeing some of the most spectacular vistas on Earth, tune in as I provide you with more details as the year progresses. The trip will be offered through Nikonians.org, the largest Nikon organization in the world, with more than 300,000 members. I am a faculty member for Nikonians Academy, but you can use any camera system, or even a plain point-and-shoot, to join us for eight glorious, albeit rugged, days. If you are interested, please write me and I’ll put you on a special list for periodic updates: les@lesterpickerphoto.com.

Some Impressions

Getting back to my latest Yukon visit, I’ll try here to recall some of the highlights of the photography part of my visit.

First, there’s the infamous bear spray issue. I had two occasions to use my can of bear spray this visit, once on a too curious bear and once on… well that’s a story for another blog. All I can tell you is that bear spray works. I gave only the tiniest spritz to a large grizzly only 7 or 8 feet from me and he took one sniff and backed up.

The next highlight is a small wildlife moment, but one that makes nature photography so interesting. We saw lots of ptarmigans on our travels up the Dempster Highway. Ptarmigans are small chicken-sized birds that are endemic to the polar regions. In the southern part of the Yukon they were their typical gray and brown colors. Once we were up near the Arctic Circle they were beginning to turn into their winter color of pure white, an amazing transformation.

Another thing I recall is the waiting. As photographers we tend to forget all the time it takes to land that shot. This one of a grizzly, for example, took three hours of waiting, plus another hour of photographing, plus eight hours of driving up the washboarded Dempster, plus eight more hours from Whitehorse, plus a cross-country flight from Maryland and then the return trip. Does that give you an inkling into the cost of buying a signed fine-art landscape, wildlife or nature image?

Then there was the day we waited 45 minutes in a cold wind for a cloud to move so the sun would light up a hill properly for the image we envisioned. And the time we waited an hour for the wind to die down so we could capture reflections in a pond. Best of all was the three-day wait in cold and rain for a few decent images of grizzlies fishing for salmon in Haines, Alaska. These are just some of the waits that photographers endure. But, how could I complain about waiting in some of the most pristine environments on the planet?

At one point I stood on a rise, photographing the awesome Tombstone Valley. The weather was overcast, cold and windy, but there were breaks in the clouds that gave us hope the sun would punch through and light the far mountains. They never did, but no matter. Instead the clouds moved over us, temporarily obscuring our view. We took refuge in the truck. When the clouds blew away the mountains were coated with a cap of white. What a thrill!

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