Dec 29, 2019
We continue with the stories and photography that happened on the Aleutian Island of Unalaska. And we finally get to listener feedback about what excites YOU about your photography.
This is Latitude Photography Podcast, Episode 63 for December 29, 2019!
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Thursday. This would be our last day of shooting. We returned to Mt. Ballyhoo but this time we went to Fort Schwatka which is on the northern side of the island. They gate the road at about a half-mile up so we had to walk the rest of the way up a road. It was about a mile to get there from where we parked the car and it starts at about 800–900 ft elevation. It’s big and spread out more than the map suggests. We started our hike at about 9:00 a.m. today since we knew it wouldn’t take us too long to get to the good stuff, and with the sun coming up at about 10:30 we had plenty of time. This was our best day for weather as well. The sun actually came out for an hour or so. It was almost strange to shoot in such conditions. It was colder though, about 35º on average and the winds were very calm, maybe 5mph at the most.
Fort Schwatka was one military installation that was built fortified in reaction to a Japanese invasion in 1942 but after that hardly ever saw any real action in the war. There’s old barracks and other buildings to photograph with the landscape and several gun batteries and mounts to frame up too. And I got a lot of that. What impressed me most though was the sheer beauty of the place as the other parts of Unalaska Island surrounds you. To the east you have Summer Bay and Split Top Mountain along with Constantine Bay further up north and Princess Head just beyond that. To west there’s Broad Bay and Eider Point with all the mountains along there as well. If we look back to the east you have the mountains I just talked about and then Beaver Inlet and then another mountain range. It’s amazingly beautiful and really sets you back. Several times I just stoped, took a deep breath and just soaked it all in.
(review the images from this area)
We ended up spending way more time up there than we initially planned. And I was getting exhausted again. We started hiking at about 9:00 a.m. and it was getting close to 3 by the time we figured we’d better think about heading back. That was six hours of straight hiking and shooting and over 7 miles in total of wandering about. It was so amazing but I was getting low on calories and needed to stop. I didn’t want to though. It was just too good. But with the cliffs at about 800 ft to the ocean I figured I’d better play it safe and not flirt with disaster. It was such a rewarding time though. And I’m so glad we got up there on this day as we saw the weather forecast and knew it would likely open up for us.
After a brief hot chocolate break in the apartment we contemplated going up Bunker Hill again but decided not to do another hike. We found a great little place facing Unalaska Bay and photographed the water crashing in on the rocky shore as the sun set.
We didn’t shoot at all today. We woke late (about 7:30 a.m.) and finished our food stuffs. Then we packed. Then it was off to the Museum of the Aleutians which didn’t open until 11:00. Randy’s plane was scheduled to leave at 1:00 so we didn’t want to push our luck. We’d heard that sometimes the flights leave early so we weren’t going to risk it. I also wanted to leave on the same flight if possible but I was booked on the later 5:00 flight.
I inquired with the airline agent and she simply replied that I can be on standby and that I should bring my bag in anyway. “If we can’t get you on this flight maybe we can get your bag on it, or vice versa” she said. At about 12:20 I was called to the desk and was confirmed on the plane. There’s 37 seats on this little puddle jumper and I was #37. “It looks like we can even get your bag on” she said, which was certainly a relief since I didn’t want to have to return to the airport to retrieve my bag.
The flight back to Anchorage was about an hour shorter than getting out there since we had such a healthy tailwind and we didn’t have to stop in King Salmon in order to refuel as we did on the way out.
Randy and I parted ways in Anchorage and I was off to my hotel for the night and he was continuing on home. I stayed over night in Anchorage because I figured it was better than staying over in Seattle all night. But I would have gotten home earlier had I taken the evening flight to Seattle and stayed there the night. Oh well.
I was on the 7:50 flight to Juneau and I ended up spending all day there which was totally boring, and my flight to Seattle was delayed. If I’d had a heads up on that I’d have left the airport and seen some of the city, but oh well, I was able to catch up on a few things like a phone call to my best friend since I was 10 and a call to the wife. I finally made it home to Walla Walla at about 9:00 and was so glad to see the wife and kids once again.
I LOVE ALASKA but the state is SO HUGE I’ll never be able to do it justice. However, I know I’ll be back.
I need to better practice what I preach. Too often I was short a few calories on the hike. I just need to take more snacks with me on the trail. I had some, but I need more. Always take more than you think you’ll need. I did have a great first-aid kit that I never needed to use and that included two emergency blankets. But the food and energy output was much higher than normal and there were some times where I just needed to have more with me.
Randy is a great traveling companion and a great photo buddy. He’s a great photographer and it’s great to see what others shoot when out and about. We were at the same locations but we shot very differently. And that’s awesome. He was also an inspiration to me and I hope I was to him as well.
The Aleutians are wonderfully amazing and I hope that I can make it back either to Unalaska or make it out to Adak at some point in time soon. I chose Unalaska simply because it was the “more fortified” island in a manner of speaking. They actually have a Safeway there so I knew I’d be fine with food stuffs. Adak, another 350 miles or so out to sea, doesn’t have a big grocery store. Being a vegetarian, I have to watch out for these things more than others do. But I have some ideas on how to prepare for such a trip now and would be successful I’m sure if I decided to make Adak my next Alaskan Adventure. But there’s so much there, I’ll talk a bit more about goals in the next episode so I’ll keep it to this for now…
The Sony a6400 is a great camera for my needs with two tiny items I need to figure out how to work with. When I establish a focus on a subject, and it’s in AF-S mode sometimes I’ll step back a bit and contemplate the composition on screen for a few seconds. When I do that, SOMETIMES, though rarely, it’ll shift focus all on it’s own, taking it out of focus and hunting around a bit. It’s so strange and I hate it. I found that switching to MF was acceptable especially with the auto zooming function it has when you turn the focus ring. That was cool. And then, dust. Its sensor is completely exposed to the elements when changing lenses. So I have a few dust spots on it now that just doesn’t happen with the Canon, not as easily anyway. A shield of some sort for when I change lenses would be good. But I do like the Sony camera and the files I’m getting out of it. It’s slightly lower resolution compared to my Canon, but the quality of the file is quite good and that 18–135 zoom is better quality than I expected as well. I have been using this camera for some time but this was the first shoot where I finally started to really feel comfortable with what it was giving me and how it was behaving.
This type of photography is what excites me more and more these days. I love the feeling of adventure and the ruggedness of the landscape. I can probably be more efficient in getting even more pictures if I stick to public transport and the like when I’m in Europe, but the rugged landscape and further out places are really intriguing to me.
I took the Polar Pro filters with me to test against the Breakthrough filters, and have decided I just need a really boring subject without changing light to really test it and give it a fair shot. My impressions are excellent, that they did well, but let’s face it, the light still changed a bit as I changed lenses so the results will still be hard to determine. Hopefully I can get to this sometime soon as I really want to be all in on Polar Pro but I’ve yet to declare that since I’ve not been able to do this test to the best of my abilities just yet.
I asked in the facebook group what excites you in your photography and I got some great answers.
Josh Austin: I get excited about capturing images that no one else has. Either going places no one else goes, or getting unique shots from well known spots.
Dale Mellor: It's usually light and shadows that catch my eyes. Sometimes color and patterns; like the skies here the other day were cloudy, with filtered light. The yellows and blues made for a unique sky. The other time is when the after sunset turn a magenta (pinkish-purple) color. (PS; not a photo, but sometimes it's just enjoyable to see.) For travel, it's a unique landscape or wildlife in their element (unobstructed by humans). It may be a little corny, but it's sometimes more about the feeling.
Sandy Glenn Brown: I’m an avid camper and travel as often as possible. I love the kiss of the first light of dawn on the wisps of clouds overhead and the sounds of the forest waking to greet me. Or the last streak of sun rays over a green meadow casing long shadows as they peak through the tall pines trees. It’s the wonder, the majesty, the smell of earth and the feel of smallness as I do my best to drink in the nature that surrounds me. And my camera is the tool I use to remember the moments! It’s simply the experience regardless of where I am or what I’m doing.
Brent: Take your camera, whatever you have on you right now, be it your phone, whatever, and find something to photograph in the next three minutes. Really try and find something. Maybe you’re jogging, or doing the dishes or laundry. There’s beauty and something interesting everywhere in just about everything. Take three minutes and find it. Then return to reality with whatever you were doing. If you’re driving please do delay until you’ve put the car in park and are able to give it the attention it deserves and do keep your eye on the road.