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"My 2 Cents"


I Am lucky!   I have had the good fortune to work and live in some spectacular places,  and with just a couple of fortunate exceptions, I don't get many chances travel long distances to photograph wildlife.  I would love to travel the world, photographing exotic locations in Africa, Antarctica, etc., but with a full-time job other than photography, those trips might have to wait.  Trips to exotic locations, however great they may be, do have their limitations.  I photographed wildlife on China's Tibetan Plateau in September of 2002, and had a fantastic trip.  Still, trying as hard as I could, there was just so much I could do in 3 weeks.  The only way to truly cover a location, is to live it!  In fact, I am convinced that a visitor to an area cannot, in a single trip or even multiple trips, cover an area's natural history as well as someone that actually lives there.

I know that many photographers travel to Alaska every summer and come away with great photos.  But, living in the state year-round has opened up new doors, many that I had not even visualized before.  I knew before getting to Cordova, that there were brown bears, moose, and a huge shorebird migration, but it has been all the little things that I have discovered since getting here, that has made this experience so rich.  I have seen many published images of sea otters in the past, and my first summer here I tried getting as many photos of them as I could.  Although I am happy with some of my summer sea otter images, my favorite images of them so far are winter images of sea otters.  Those images were never on a "wish list" of mine yet by being here at all seasons, I have been able to witness something that few people have, and capture that on film.

I have had friends visit me that wanted to see typical Alaska icons like killer whales.  So far, I have not been able to show any of my visitors a killer whale, in fact, at any given time, I can't even show myself a killer whale!  However by spending time here, and lots of time in my boat on Prince William Sound, I have encountered them several times each year (and ALWAYS have a camera in my boat just in case).  Those encounters have been incredible, and although I still may not have the "ultimate" killer whale image, they have been the subject of many of my favorite shots so far.

The list of "unexpecteds" is large, and includes river otters, long-tailed ducks, trumpeter swans, and more.  Most of these I would never have seen had I come for a 1 week or even a 1 month vacation.  Many would not typically be seen by visitors in the normal "tourist season".  In other words, they are a gift to those who are able to live in coastal Alaska, year-round.  And although living in a place like Cordova, Alaska has its rewards, it also has its costs: we get 160" of rain a year, prices are sky high, and it is not easy (or cheap) to travel to other places, even within Alaska (Cordova is a remote community, accessible by plane or ferry only).  In fact the weather alone has caused me to be "stranded" in the house more weekends than I care to admit, however, when it breaks, I find myself in one of the most wild and beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.

Now, this does not mean that you need to move to Alaska to get great pictures.  In fact, the point I want to make is just the opposite.  No one can photographically cover your home area better than you!  Right out all of our backdoors are subjects we rarely see on film, in settings that few others ever get to witness.  I may get to Florida to visit the in-laws at Christmas every other year, but that does not let me get great photos of Florida wildlife.  Although I am happy with some of what I have captured, I am also aware of the many things I miss, such as prime breeding colors of the wading birds, the reptiles of summer, or beautiful, wonderful, warm, sunny weather that NEVER occurs in Cordova!.

All of us need to take better advantage of where we live.  Treat every day in the field with your camera as if you were on a National Geographic assignment trying to document all the facets of your location's natural history.  By "Living It" you'll soon find that you have photos that no one else does, a local Ansel Adams so-to-speak, and that should be satisfying all by itself!


"My 2 Cents" Archives:

"Killing a Bear for a Good Photo"
"Wolves in Virginia; Snowy Owls in Utah"