Saturday, February 1, 2014

Alaska Memories -- Post One of many during the coming months...

Jade arrived in Alaska back in the late 1990s on a flying visit ... and the rest his history. Here is Anchorage,
photographed from Earthquake Park, looking across Knik Arm to Bootleggers' Cove --
the sky is full of swallows ... and all images in these posts way predate digital: they're scans.
Downtown Fairbanks in the summer: Golden Heart Plaza, photographed
from across the Chena River at the end of the long drive from Anchorage...
Road trips in Alaska involve a lot of this...
... and jewels like Thunderbird Falls are hiding away, waiting to be
discovered. And oh, how Jade wishes that digital photography had
arrived about a decade earlier!
Alaska was a photographer's paradise. Here is Broad Pass in March ... and often, what seems to be
classic wilderness photography will be revealed --
-- with a slightly different camera angle, and less zoom, to be a shot from the roadside! These images were
taken in March 1999, when Dave and Jade were headed for Anchorage. Uh ... honeymoon. 
In fact, may of Jade's memories of Alaska are typified by this on-road, driving shot, and --
-- this one. Shooting through the windscreen, with Dave driving. Driving what, now?
It's a Pontiac Sunfire, the 1996 model. Here's Dave plus Sunfire on a roadside near Fairbanks...
...and Dave's shot of Jade plus Sunfire, by a lake somewhere near the Richardson Highway --
perhaps between Delta and Summit, not far from Summit Lake (though this is not Summit Lake itself).
Long, long before there was the Millennium Possum or Lola, there was this real beauty...
...which we bought between us in 1999, in the days when the plan was
that Jade was moving to Fairbanks, rather than Dave heading south!
Here she is in a parking lot not far from Portage Glacier...
...and another parking lot not far from Fairbanks.
Fairbanks has a charm all its own, and Jade became very fond of it. In the shot of Golden Heart Plaza above
(remember the clock tower?), it's summer. Here's the same place in winter -- photographed from the bridge, and
the Chena River is totally frozen in ... they'll be racing dog teams on this in a week's time --
Here's the Open North American dog mushing event starting, downtown --
The Open North American dog sled race heads down the frozen Chena River...
...and meanwhile one of the local sprint races heads off into positively Arctic wastes just outside Fairbanks.
(Yes, it was cold. Very. Especially when you were in Australia just a few days before, at 100 degrees!)
Speaking of dog mushing, the Yukon Quest dog sled race -- Fairbanks, AK, to Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada) -- is
run in February. Here's the checkpoint at Angel Creek, albeit in summer.
Take off! A float plane heads off on a fishing charter from Fish Lake near Talkeetna --
-- summer in much of Alaska is typified by warm, humid days, velvety sunlight, the smell of spruce on the air and
the heavy bass drone of light aircraft, like this one.
And right after this charter leaves, another is lined up right behind it. Busy! Talkeetna is a great place to start a
fishing holiday. It's also the gathering place and starting point for climbers tackling Denali, known to those
from "outside" as Mt. McKinley.
The Alaska Bush Float Plane Service operates out of Fish Lake. That's their office, at right, with a sod roof.
We were told, if we'd only arrived one week earlier that roof was blooming with flowers! 
Then fall comes to the rolling hills around Fairbanks, and the landscape is magical ...
You have to be quick: the fall colors don't last long -- often just days...
-- but if you can be there in time, with cameras loaded, you can walk right into an enchanted forest.
Here's a stand of birch turned to gold at UAF.
The beauty of being in an area for a long time, or making many visits, is
that you come to know it, and can photograph it in many seasons. Jade sat on
that bench and, from it, here's the view:
-- a photo-op point, quite close to Trapper Creek, on the Parks Highway. And --
Here is Dave's shot of Jade in the act of taking the photo right below --
spot the two trees with the tiny one between them:
And then, approximately the same location in spring --
And again, in winter, where the mountains look like the fantasy pavilions of an army of giants.
Heading south from the Trapper Creek area takes you through the Mat-Su Valley -- the Matanuska-Susitna Valley
-- on your way into Anchorage. It's an interesting drive in March, with leaden-gray skies and snow on the way.
In this shot, you're just about to head into the valley from the north.
Near the McHugh Creek exit, on the Seward Highway, which hugs the shore of Turnagain Arm. The sea has
thawed by now, but not very long before --
Here's the Knik Arm, photographed from Point Woronzof Park, right behind Anchorage Airport, with
Mount Susitna -- "Sleeping Lady" -- on the horizon. That's quite the ocean view!
But, as Dave's father used to say, "When the sun shines there's no more beautiful place than Alaska."
He was right. He still is. And Jade is making major plans for returning there, many times, in many seasons,
to photograph it all again now that the digital age has arrived!

After hunting high and low for my Alaska photos, I'd given up on finding them at least until we move house again, and get to unpack a lot of boxes that are, right now, packed and stacked. If you know us, you know we're nomads of necessity, serial gypsies, moving house way too often -- which is the curse of folks who rent, at least in Australia, where rental properties are a form of investment, being bought and sold for gain every few years.

But then -- looking for something else entirely, lo and behold! A box of photos popped out of a basket I hadn't seen in a year! Now, not all my Alaska pictures have turned up: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Stampede Trail, the Kenai boat tour ... those are still packed. They're in albums, whereas it's a box of photos that's reappeared. Also, all (yes all) of my slides vanished into some box, somewhere, nine years ago, and I haven't seen them since. I have to believe they're in the house somewhere, but the only things I recall clearly by now is that I had scores of fantastic images from the World Ice Art Championships, 1999, and some equally fantastic shots captured off the stern of the tour boat Kenai Star in 1997.

But at least I have a place to start here: a box with about 800 photos ... and a scanner.

Everything you see here, and will be seeing in posts similar to this one in the months (and years!) ahead, will have gone through the scanning process: scanned at 600dpi, cropped, enhanced, resized. And I do believe I'm catching these pictures in the nick of time. What you see here is the enhanced version ... the pictures are up to 17 years old, and they're starting to fade. Some are fading quite badly, soooo...

I'll be processing as many as I can on an afternoon, once a week, and will upload the best of them here, with stories attached. Everything you see here is Jade's work, unless Jade is actually in the picture, in which case it's Dave taking the shot ...duh.

For those photographically inclined: everything you see here (except Dave's shots) was captured with the Pentax K-1000 ... those cameras are indestructible. I had two -- still have them, and they're still my film camera of choice. You cannot hurt them or stop them: big steel body, simple, simple system -- nothing to go wrong. The more fiddly and "clever" cameras get, the more they go "bung." With the Pentax K-1000, you were on your own: automatic nothing. You did everything yourself, from exposure to focus ... and I have dropped one out of a car, in a parking lot in Denali National Park, picked it up, and found nary a dent in it, much less a fault! If we still used film cameras today, these are the ones I'd still be using ... and you can still buy them. They change hands on eBay for about $125 even now.

But there is, in fact, no comparison between film and digital, in terms of the quality you can expect in the images (not the mention the fact that digital pictures don't fade over time, and never need rescuing), so the Pentaxes are boxed ... they're keepsakes, while their work is being salvaged, processed, enhanced, and you'll see the best of it uploaded here every so often, in the months -- years! -- to come.

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