Proud As A Peacock

Photography is, by itself, an adventure.  It’s all about learning … sharing … educating … at least for me it is.  It’s an expressive art form, where the beauty of the image is held within and varies from observer to observer.  For me, it’s hard to separate the emotion out of certain images or to quantify the blood, sweat, and tears that went into an image.  It’s an art form where one has to have tough skin … in processing, in observing, and often in critiquing.  It’s the ultimate journey.  In 2016, I planned for some potential bumps in the road along the way by putting some of my stuff “out there”.  Everything is a learning experience … and it’s all good.

Early in 2016, I was approached by the California Science Center Foundation in Los Angeles, CA about incorporating 2 of our images into the Ecosystems Exhibit in the Children’s Museum.  I was quite honored by the request knowing that I could indirectly contribute to the education of our youth on the concept of adaptation and conservation.  Below are the two images that I granted them access to:

Polar bear adult, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska ©2015
_DSC6749                      Arctic ground squirrel, Denali National Park, Alaska ©2015_DSC3578I can’t wait to one day see it for myself in person.

April 30th, the Juried Best In Nature 2016 Exhibit opened at the Ordover Museum of the San Diego Natural History Museum @ Balboa Park, San Diego, California.  Approximately 70 images were juried in to hang as part of the exhibit through August 2016.  One of those images was mine.  It was quite an honor to be amongst some of the best nature images featured.

“The Awakening”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
_DSC9817Defenders of Wildlife, an amazing advocate group for the protection and preservation of           wildlife, as well as advancing the cause of many wildlife issues, selected one of my images as the Grand Prize Winner for 2016.  I was humbled beyond words and so proud that this image helps in their work, as well as “speaks” to the public in a way that words can’t.  I     believe that photography can be a powerful tool in enlisting the support and understanding of many viewers.  I hope that it motivates others, like me, to join the cause.

“When I Grow Up”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015_dsc2247-2That image was also honored by NANPA as a Top 250 image.  The Audubon Society of Greater Denver’s Share the View Competition also honored it among the Top 250 images, as well as the image below.

“Chasing the Adrenaline”;  Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska  © 2014DSC_8370To say that I was stunned is an understatement, when one of my images was selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Competition.  That was an honor awarded to approximately 300 of the 20,000 images received for review.

“The Polar Bear Pledge”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
debbietubridy_polarbearpledge_polarpassion-1-of-1-2Lastly, 4 of my images were used by the Wyoming Outdoor Council, an advocacy group based out of Lander, Wyoming for their 50th Anniversary 2017 Calendar, celebrating 50 years of conservation.

“Skills Test”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150322-DSC_1653                       “Lazy Day Fox”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150321-DSC_0885                  “Struggle for Survival”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  ©2016_DSC6231                          “Passing the Day Away”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  © 2016_DSC9668-2While photography endeavor successes make me feel quite proud, it pales by comparison to the pride I felt when my daughter, Kelli, walked in her Hooding Ceremony in advance of her then upcoming graduation from her Physician Assistant Program.img_1508Shortly thereafter, she formally graduated with Highest Honors from Nova Southeastern University.img_1722It was a long 27-month haul for her, but it was done finally!  She then successfully passed her credential examination and is now a proud owner of some new initials … PA-C … which she adds to her BS and MS in Exercise Physiology from the University of Florida.  She celebrated with a few shorter US trips for fun, then backpacked through Europe with one of her classmates (and part-time with her hubby).  Yep, that’s my Unicorn!  (don’t ask … it’s a long story).  🙂img_1734Finally, another accomplishment that I’m quite proud of is the progress that my stepfather has made in his recovery.  As many of you know, our Alaska trip for 2016 was cancelled at the last minute due to his hospitalization.  While it was sad at the moment, it was necessary, and to see him finally leave the hospital walking with the assitance of his walker … was nothing short of a miracle.  He’s never looked back either and is walker free.  Physical therapy and rehabilitative services ROCK and I can’t say enough good things about the care he received at Memorial South Rehab Hospital!  img_1812What does the future hold in 2017?  Who knows, but I can promise you that Alaska is back on the table!  I have many goals, or should I say learning directions, for me to pursue … and of course, places to go.  🙂

This blog has been an important part of that growth & sharing and an expression that I find particularly rewarding.  Please let me know what you think.  I can say that as of the end of 2016, the blog has reached 87 countries … making it feel like quite a bit smaller of a world, which of course, we all share.  I have a personal goal to add another 11 countries in 2017, bringing the blog’s reach to 1/2 of the world’s countries!

My wish for photography to bring us all closer, educate us to important issues that surround us, and most importantly, to bring joy to all those who view the images.  There’s no greater compliment to me than when friends/contacts appreciate what they see or tell me that somehow the images or stories moved them.  Happy 2017 everyone … it’s ours to write … let’s make it a great one!!_DSC0298-2Next Up:  Who wants to go to Colorado?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

Happy Holidays everyone!

It seems appropriate that having spent 5 days amongst the polar bears that I would have not 1 or 2 blog posts from that fabulous adventure … but 5!  I mean, there was just so much to experience there, so many new friends (both polar bears and human), and my goodness, so many photographs to share.  If you haven’t seen the previous posts, take a few moments (OK, it may actually take a few moments longer) to get yourself caught up.  I’ll include the links at the end of this post … #5 of 5.

I had always dreamed of seeing real live polar bears when I was very young.  Over time of course, I was fortunate enough to see them in zoos, but that wasn’t enough for me.  Little did I know then, that decades later, I would become addicted to BEARS … all kinds.  Maybe it was already in my DNA, who knows.  LOL.

I, as in solo, flew off to Alaska in late September of 2015 … just 2 weeks after returning home from there from an adventure out there with Tom.  It was crazy and I was feeling a bit crazier.  How could I do that without Tom?  My trusted adventure partner and personal sherpa … OK, any that knows me knows that I’m not joking.  However, I did, and I never looked back, then or now, and have the time of my life.  Five days in Kaktovik, Alaska … 8 trips out in the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, photographing polar bears, from a relatively small boat.  They were everything that I hoped … and more!_DSC2594 We observed lone polar bears as they roamed the arctic landscape.  We also were treated to sows with their young cubs.  I found it fascinating when they would encounter other bears.  In this instance, I believe that the bear in the water was familiar with the sow …perhaps an older offspring from the past.  The cub was quite interested in playing with it, but mom would always place herself in between the cub and other bear._DSC2673 _DSC2679 _DSC2701A few times the encounter seemed like it was becoming a bit tense.  I was so engaged in the interaction, but make no mistake about it, I didn’t want to see any fights.  Yes, I’m that one.  Haha._DSC2712 Mom and the bear would wrestle around in the water, while the young cub obediently waited on the shore._DSC2738 They reminded me of dogs playing in the surf or anywhere else for that matter.  There was a lot of snarling, teeth flossing, claws bared …_DSC2861… but like most brawls, there wasn’t much else but playful fighting … or perhaps a play for dominance and lesson teaching.
_DSC2859 All the while, the cub observed from afar and would call out to its mom.  Of course, she ignored its calls._DSC3054 Eventually, she would exit the water and join her cub.  Before long though, the other bear would come close to shore and off the cub would go to play or defend its mom, we really couldn’t tell._DSC2946 Once again, mom would escort the bear back into the water._DSC0642When it was safe to proceed, she began to travel the landscape again, with her cub along her side.  Seems like the cub wanted to still interact with the other bear though._DSC3311Just as any good mom would do, she them gave the cub a little nibble in the backside to teach it a lesson.  LOL
_DSC3142 These bears would find just about anything they could to play with, eat, or entertain themselves.  _DSC3682 While we were positioned in an open boat, the bears would share the waters with us.  Though they are excellent swimmers, we were quite safe and always kept a respectable distance.  I just loved how entertaining they were and how many positions that they could get themselves in.  Look at the size of those pads!_DSC2130 _DSC2106Whale blubber made an excellent toy to play with … the nastier, the better.
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As always, I became obsessed by the size of their feet and the beauty of their pads.  As opposed to brown bears, these bears had more distinct pads … better for photography even._DSC2072 The real beauty of them though was their movement on the land.  So determined in their walk._DSC3395 Again, the interactions with other bears that they encountered seemed to be calm and even at times playful.  _DSC3338 When I was told that we had to get back to shore on our last trip, I felt that old familar feeling that I can only describe as only ….. NOOOOOO! …. followed by incessant shutter clicking.  As if the thousands I had already taken weren’t enough.  😦_DSC2758 Once we waited for our van to take us from the shore to the inn for the last time, I saw something that was so incredibly appropriate.  A rainbow positioned just perfectly behind a whale bone on the snowy landscape.  It was a sign … our trip was over … but to me also was a sign to me that I would return one day.  🙂IMG_0156 Even our departure was exciting.  Though I had secretly (OK, maybe not so secretly) hoped that our flight would be unable to make it in to pick us up, there it was taxiing down the runway, which double as the road, to pick us up.  Dang! IMG_0045 As were were loading up for our return flight to Fairbanks, I still didn’t want to leave.  But ultimately we had to … the 4 of us and 4 more Canadian photographers shared a pleasant flight back to the big city.  See, it’s all relative in Alaska.IMG_0092 Yes, it was a fabulous trip to the arctic … the literal end of the land … for these amazing polar bears.  Our group was fantastic and I still keep in touch with each of them, as well as several of my new friends from Canada.  Amazing how photography bonds people and makes the world a much smaller place.  It is my hope that my photographs and stories shared in this and the other 4 blog posts from this amazing adventure serve to keep others informed about the polar bears and their fight for survival.  It’s up to us to insure that our children, grandchildren, and for many more generations have the opportunity to know the joys of polar bears … yes, up close and personal like I did.  🙂harshaj_20151005_191-31-100As promised, here are the links for the other blog posts shared:

Part 1:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/im-dreaming-of-a-white-bear-polar-bear-that-is/

Part 2:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/sun-rays-water-play/

Part 3:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/adding-a-dash-of-snow/

Part 4:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/an-arctic-celebration/

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Adding A Dash of Snow

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 6-1/2 months since I visited with the polar bears of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s hard to believe that Kaktovik,in the fall season, was about 70+ degrees (farenheit) colder than I find it in the spring of south Florida.  Especially hard to believe that we actually had the most amazing of weather while I was there … from sunny clear days to misty/foggy days to snowy days … but the notorious arctic winds were never strong enough for us to be grounded in the 5 days.  Quite lucky for us … adding to the unbelievable experience that I had there.

On this morning, it was lightly snowing … just enough to make it pretty for the composition, but not too much to cause problems with the actual photography experience.     I have to admit that it was probably my favorite morning for capturing the “mood” and environment they lived in … see, polar bears should be in the snow.  At least that’s what I had always thought while growing up.  🙂

_DSC7514I love to imagine what it was like for the polar bears to roam around on the arctic landscape each and every time I took their image.  While the one above seemed to be enjoying the snowfall, I wondered if it sensed that the period of waiting for that ice to freeze was shortening and it knew that soon it would be off on its hunt across the frozen landscape.  Or was it simply enjoying the snowfall and trying to catch a snowflake?  LOL  Didn’t matter to me … either scenario was intriguing to me.
_DSC9603One by one they made their way down the shore of Barter Island and as they did, I struggled with how exactly I wanted to capture them.  So I opted for a variety of near and faraway images to better tell their story of struggle, survival, and love for their young.  I wanted to hang onto every ounce of emotion that I was feeling as I possibly could._DSC9545 Sometimes they would encounter others along the way … while other times they would simply pass by them, while other times, they would stop to interact with a sniff, a swim in the water together, a submissive move away from the dominant bear, or engage in a bit of a pushing match … which I’m sure was also a lesson in learning one’s hierarchy status.  I couldn’t help but notice the differences in their coats – a range of creamy white to quite “dirty” looking … probably a consequence of dining on whale blubber._DSC8367 The most tender moments, that would instantaneously melt my heart (and serve to keep me warm out in the cold) were the moments and images captured of moms and their cubs.  Of course, the cuddle moments were highlights on that list._DSC9869 When they snuggled, whether playing or napping, they were absolutely endearing to photograph.  These cubs were generally “cubs of the year” and therefore about 10-11 months old.  Interestingly, only pregnant female polar bears den during the winter, where they give birth somewhere between Novemeber and December.  Females then emerge from the den when the cubs are old enough to safely do so, usually in March or April.  _DSC9817 One afternoon, I probably hit my “squeal quota” observing the antics being performed by this young cub, in its attempt to entertain itself while its mom was resting nearby._DSC9580 This cub had THE BEST TIME with this stick, that it managed to find on the snowy landscape, as it wielded it around and around, and falling clumsily over and over, all around it.  I remember how it played with it for probably 45 minutes while we watched._DSC0066 _DSC0014 During that time, it seemed that time stood still for me.  I don’t remember breathing (though I’m sure that I did), I don’t remember feeling my heart beat or my chest expand and sink with my respirations.  I simply remember hearing the clicking of my shutter … endlessly … and feeling a huge smile spread across my face.  My heart was melting.  I found another true “happy place”._DSC0013 _DSC0209 _DSC0143 Finally I guess the thrill of playing with that stick was gone because the cub eventually abandoned it and returned to its sleeping mom.  I sensed that the cub was a bit uncertain if it should wake up its mom, but it cautiously and gently tried to approach her._DSC0477 To my surprise, the mom responded by sitting up and rolling over, patting her cub on its head.  _DSC0393Nursing of the cub soon followed and just in case I had any heart space that hadn’t been touched yet, that moment sure sealed the deal.
_DSC0019 I’ve said previously how impressed that I was with how wonderful these polar bear moms were … patient, nurturing, loving, and kind … though still in charge when necessary._DSC0216I noticed also that they moms appeared that they would take turns watching over each others cubs, enabling a sleepy mom some much needed rest, especially those who still had several cubs in tow._DSC0453 The moms were never far from their cubs though, which was refreshing to see.  Speaking of refreshing … look who’s playing a game of “Tag” and “Hide & Seek”?  These two cubs were so entertaining as they swam around and under this iceberg, climbing up it a bit to get a better vantage point to check on it playmate.  It was so heartwarming to see them playing as such, reminding me of our own young children … having fun, learning new things, interacting with others, all while being supervised by their mom.  Well, maybe they do that more than some humans do, but that’s a whole other story.  LOL.
_DSC0087 Yes, these polar bears were such interesting subjects and by day 3, I think that we had learned so much about them and their behaviors.  Good thing too, for that’s when wildlife photography really can kick in, being able to anticipate their behaviors and next moves.  It also allows you to open yourself to enjoy the experience more._DSC0886 As I write about my experiences, emotions that I dealt with, and share these images, one thing that I know for sure is that I will return to see and photograph these amazing polar bears again one day.  How could I not?   _DSC0603There will be more polar bear images and stories later this summer, but for now I’ll return to more birding action from Florida … UP NEXT.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Sun Rays & Water Play

Who wants more arctic polar bears?  I know that when I woke up on day 2 of my polar bear adventure, I sure did.  Not sure, but I think that I dreamed about them all night.  What would it be like today?  We wanted to vary our opportunities photographing them, so we woke up very early to get out on the water for sunrise.  What an amazing sunrise it was too!

IMG_0076Not surprising, we weren’t the only ones who woke up in the wee hours to greet the early light.  The first sighting of the day involved this cub duo who were frolicking on the shoreline._DSC4577 I couldn’t believe how fabulous they looked with that sun highlighting the texture in their fur.  They played for quite some time and then ran off in search of their mom._DSC4692 Of course, their mom wasn’t far away and was keeping a keen eye on their location and activity.  She too was basking in that wonderful sunlight … in that crisp, cold breeze.  It was the arctic after all. _DSC4545 Barter Island is located just off the coast of Kaktovik.  Polar bears congregate here for a few reasons.  One is that they wait for the ice to form so that they may travel across it as they begin their hunt for seals and other food sources.  I love seals, so I find it a bit disturbing, but such is nature.  It’s all about survival._DSC4845 For those who do not know the whereabouts of Kaktovik, AK, it’s where the Alaskan coastline meets the arctic.  Basically, where the land ends.  North, there’s nothing … no more land, just the North Pole.  Fascinating really.  Another reason why these polar bears like Kaktovik is that it is a village of Inupiat eskimo natives, and they live off the land and sea/ocean for their food and supplies.  Part of that includes the harvesting of whales (2) each year, after which the carcass is deposited at the “bone yard”.  These bears know it and feed off the carcass remains when available.  We didn’t visit or photograph the bone yard, as the bears that feed there tend to get that dirty look to them._DSC4927 These polar bears are quite entertained by each other and as mentioned earlier, the moms seem to take pride in their young and nurture them lovingly._DSC4887 _DSC5123

Sometimes, it seems like all they do is play with their young … who are more than willing to burn off some excess energy jumping, rolling, and playing._DSC5087 Of course, Barter Island lies right off the Beaufort Sea, so there’s plenty of water activities to entertain these bears too.  Almost anything found floating in the water or sitting on the shoreline is fair game.  This bear has found a stick to play with,  which is remarkable, since the nearest trees are literally hundreds of miles away!_DSC5622 The water is more like a big slush pool … and while we would be a frozen mess, they quite enjoy it!_DSC5831 While their interactions might look ferocious, they’re more playful most of the time.  Just like the brown bears who as cubs or sub-adults frolic together in the rivers or coastal waters, so do these polar bears!  Lots of splashing, dunking, and posturing going on, for sure.  Love it!_DSC5721 _DSC5885 Sometimes they play in the water with each other, but other times they just play by themselves … with or without props.  Funny too, because they always seem to know where the cameras are … to our delight.    _DSC5961 When they’re not playing in the water, they’re traveling up and down the landscape._DSC6077 As you can see, the landscape gets littered by broken up ice chunks.  Soon it will be solid ice, but luckily for us it’s still got some freezing to do.  I can’t imagine how I would react to not being able to go out on our boat to visit them due to the freeze._DSC8871We never got skunked from the polar bear sightings.  Sure some days or times were better than others, but there was always something to photograph.
_DSC6136 _DSC9244 It was amazing to me to see what the cubs would unearth and begin to play with.  Sometimes it was a stick or a log, other times it was a remnant of blubber from the bone pile I would assume, or even feathers from an unfortunate bird.  One of the bears actually boarded a native’s boat and made off with a life ring.  LOL_DSC6162 The two cubs above found that blubber remnant and began to chew on/play with it a bit.  A curious solo bear was interested in it, but the cubs mom would have none of it and defended their right to the “find”.  That interaction was only 1 of 2 possible “friendly confrontations” that we witnessed in 5 days of shooting._DSC6281 _DSC1189 A playful tug-of-war ensued over the ownership of the blubber …_DSC2058 … to which the winner proudly walked off with its prize.  🙂_DSC1988

Some people have asked if the bears ever threatened us or if I ever felt fear from them … even I wondered it before I arrived into Kaktovik … after all, WE are in THEIR food chain.  I can honestly say that I never once felt anything but pure joy, awe, and respect for these amazing bears.  How could anyone not want to protect these bears for generations?

Lots more polar bear images and stories coming up, so stay tuned.  🙂

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

I’m Dreaming of a White … Bear … Polar Bear, that is :-)

Well here goes … the blog post that some of you have waited for with much anticipation.  Quite honestly, I was so excited to share my “once-in-a-lifetime” experience with everyone, though I knew that just as my “pre-trip preparations” seemed overwhelming … so did the “post-trip” work – processing over WAY more images than I care to admit.  🙂  I hope that no one minds that I share these images over  several blog posts.

So, for those of you who don’t know, this past October I took an amazing trip that I had dreamed about probably for a lifetime – to see the polar bears in the wild!  Never did I think I would ever realize that dream.  Never did I think that it would be so PERFECT!  🙂

Years ago when I talked about going to see them, I think that Tom thought I was crazy… and that was when I wanted to see them from the comfort of the tundra buggies in Churchill.  Over the years, given my affection (or some would say “infection”, LOL) with Alaska, the ante had been raised.  I was now set to travel to the edge of the arctic to Kaktovik, AK.  It started with a good friend of mine was going to celebrate a special birthday there and Tom gave the OK for me to join her and her friend.  Excited, I set out to coordinate my plans with theirs, but it wasn’t to be.  I resigned myself to thinking that I was not going to realize my dream in 2015.  OK, I think I must have sulked around a bit because Tom eventually encouraged me to “find another way to make it happen”.  I jumped on that request and as they say, “the rest is history”.  Tom opted to let me venture out on my own for this trip … much like when I traveled to Yellowstone in the winter by myself, I’m sure he had a great time imagining how I was able to get all of my gear and clothing on and off 3 planes without him.  🙂  But, when there’s a will, there’s a way.  🙂

IMG_0127

Once I arrived to a snow-covered Fairbanks, AK, I prayed that I had everything that I needed and that things would go as planned.  My group was headed by Epic Destinations and Alex Mody.  It was me & 3 other photographers from various places around the world.  Little did those guys know what they were in for.  LOL

IMG_0037 We flew Ravn Air, in our 9-seater plane, without incident or delays, from Fairbanks to Barter Island (the airport that serves Kaktovik, where we would be staying).  I could hardly contain myself when we neared our destination.IMG_0006 Once safely on the ground, I could see that we were out in the middle of pretty much nowhere.  I could see a truck coming out our way to pick us up and transport us into the village.IMG_0137 To my delight, I ran into my dear friend Renee and Catherine (my new friend), – both amazing photographers – as I was arriving and they were ready to depart.  I could tell how absolutely pleased they both were with their experience and how excited they were for me.  I so wished that we could have shared the experience together … but hopefully we will have more opportunities to do so in the future.  Right girls?  🙂IMG_0132 In Kaktovik, there are few places to lodge and we stayed at the Marsh Creek Inn, which I’m told is the place to stay.  I really didn’t know what to expect, but I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised … it quickly became my home away from home.  There’s one thing that’s nice about being the only female in my group … for I had pretty much my own space, bathroom, etc.  It just keeps getting better!  We were fed our meals, which were quite varied and tasty, while there.  Yes, Tim (the manager) and his staff took great care of me!IMG_0122 After we settled in and grabbed some lunch, we made our way to the first of 8 trips out to photograph the polar bears.  As you can see the waters were icy … see, the bears are there waiting for that ice to form, so that they can venture out to hunt seals, etc.IMG_0113 There it was … our first sighting of a polar bear!  Do I need to tell you how excited I was?_DSC7779 _DSC8543 The excitement waned only when I glimpsed my first mom with her cub. Now my heart was melting faster than the polar ice (couldn’t resist that one)!_DSC8116 We were asked earlier to keep quiet when we find polar bears.  While I understand the reason for the request, I immediately fessed up and apologized in advance for the squeals of delight that were undoubtedly going to be emanating out of me.  LOL.  To my surprise, I really wasn’t too bad.  I think that it was a combination of wonder, awe, not wanting to miss a second of the experience.  I would literally pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming!_DSC8142 I remember being particularly aware of how patient and kind these polar bear moms seemed to be with their young._DSC8256 Just like the brown bears that I’ve photographed so often in the past, the cubs were quite rambunctious._DSC7930 Of course, being a lover of bear paws and pads, I couldn’t help but be totally fascinated with the ones possessed by these bears of the arctic.  Makes sense, but wow, they sure were giant._DSC7910 While photographing, you could just feel the love and bond between this mother and cub. I think that there were times that I actually would find myself forgetting to breath.  It was all so perfect!  What could possibly be cuter that this mom and cub bear hug?_DSC8342 I remember that when I was readying for my trip I was told about how the polar bears were not actually white … what I found is that the color of their fur varied greatly … from a creamy white to almost the color of a brown bear blondie.  _DSC6749 These cubs undoubtedly grew exponentially from the time that they are born, to the time they first emerge from the den, to now.  It was all that I could do not to jump out and go cuddle with it.  Just kidding of course.  😉_DSC7124 _DSC7451 Mom always kept a keen eye on her young.  I was afraid that we would see defensive and aggressive encounters between bear families, but we saw nothing like that at all.  They all just seemed to get along peacefully._DSC7301 These bears were quite intrigued by us, but never acted unnatural or afraid.  I think that they were almost as curious about us as we were of them._DSC9482 As I mentioned before, there are so many images and memories, so stay tuned for more blog posts, including the next post which will feature these amazing polar bears as well.  So until then, I leave you with this wonderful trio we observed from afar.  Near or far, they were amazing!_DSC6647Next up:  Sun, water fun, games, & more – Polar Bears!

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Denali NP … Until Next Time

All aboard the train back into Denali NP!  DSC_7298As the new day begins, the promise of great things ahead initiates with this beautiful sunrise.DSC_7179Even this moose cow stops what she’s doing to check out the fabulous sights and sounds of Denali.DSC_3026No matter the weather that you are greeted by, just wait a few moments or hours, it’s bound to change.  Though the misty, low clouds make this a gorgeous atmosphere as seen by a vista at the Savage River overlook pullout.DSC_7243Usually we head out early for a few runs along the park road looking for wildlife opportunities and friends to catch up with.  By mid-day, Tom has one thing on his mind … Bean Cloud coffee shake from The Black Bear, a delicious coffee house located across the street from the entrance to Denali NP.  Our good friend Rebecca knows that this is a required stop when she rides along with us.  🙂IMG_1055A usual hike, one of only a few established trails in Denali NP, is the Horseshoe Lake Trail.  Crossing over the railroad tracks I can’t help but stop, get low, and snap off a few images. Railroad tracks have always fascinated me.DSC_7327The water on this mornings hike was exceptionally still, which provided for wonderful reflections.  DSC_7346Along the way, while exploring the shore along the river, we heard the train whistle blow.  How lucky to get a second train sighting!  That deep blue and yellow train, set against the greens and yellows of the early transition period into the fall colors towards the front of the park, made it all that more special.DSC_7386Well, until a rainbow come out and topped it.  How lucky we had been with our travels and the weather this year in Alaska!DSC_7407Tom is quite fascinated by beaver dens, lodges, and activity, so it didn’t surprise us when he decided to ham it up for the camera.DSC_7430During the late afternoons and early evenings, we would “troll” for wildlife along the park road.  Of course, being in the midst of the beginnings of the moose rut, encountering bull moose gathering about was the prime target of our quest.  Usually, it wouldn’t be long before we got those encounters that we desired.DSC_3505This particular bull moose was one of only a few that still had traces of velvet on their antler paddles.  It was so amazing to see it hanging off the tines, like unraveling threads hanging down.DSC_3814Sometimes, while pleading your case for an additional night at the campground during a holiday weekend, you come across the unexpected.  I could hear another gal doing the same right next to me, then heard, “Hey lady”.  To my surprise, my good friend Renee was standing there, after just arriving to Denali without a reservation.  Well, neither one of us could get the extra night in demand, but we had our campsite for the night already, so we just had them join us!  How much fun we had sitting around the campfire, dropping our droopy marshmallows into the fire, enjoying a bottle of wine, and catching up with other, something we didn’t think that we would get to do until we returned to Anchorage.  So much fun that we ended up talking and laughing it up … right through the fabulous display of northern lights!  Ugh!  Oh well …. it was worth it.  🙂DSC_7435On our last day in Denali, the mountain was still out, though just a tad covered mid-section by a thin layer of clouds.  I think that those clouds add a bit of character to the mountain view._DSC3816When breaking during the day within Denali, I always take the time to see what their information signs have to offer for the day.  I was so struck by this quote by Margaret Murie – “Beauty is a resource in and of itself … I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by or so poor she cannot afford to keep them”.  So eloquently spoken and never so true as today.DSC_7485Yes, we truly LOVE Denali and this amazing vast environment of wilderness, wildlife, adventure opportunities, and views that take your breath away!IMG_1107DSC_7487More dall sheep sightings along the way.  These two guys were consistently there each day that we passed by.DSC_4036One last thought when experiencing Alaska to remember:  “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary in life” – Rachel CarsonDSC_7469With that in mind, we made our way towards Anchorage to begin our journey home, somewhere along the Denali Highway.  I was restless that night and peeked outside around midnight or so.   Something was outside wanting to bid us farewell … until next time.  It was the aurora, once more, though behind some sporadic clouds.  Of course, I had to snap a few shots.  🙂  My spirit was refueled with energy and excitement.DSC_7550DSC_7553So, until next time … adieu Denali … as Arnold says … “I’ll be back”!DSC_7472IMG_1059Hope that you enjoyed our images and stories from Alaska 2015!

Next Up:  Think White ~~~~

©2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Special Memory in Denali

For some reason, we generally save Denali NP for the end of our trip.  Perhaps it’s to let the crowds thin out a bit, or maybe allow more time for the big bulls to arrive for the moose rut, or we like to end on a high – a definitive one pleasing for both wildlife and landscapes.  As soon as we arrived and saw the snow on the landscape and the trees, we knew that it was going to be a special week of Denali.DSC_0889As we made our first pass on the 15-mile public road within the park, while looking for moose, we spotted a bear … actually 3 bears walking the gravel bed of the braided Savage River.  What a great omen.DSC_0952We did find the moose as well … always fascinating to find them drinking near the kettle ponds._DSC6511_DSC6556Our arrival into the Denali NP was timed perfectly … for on August 31st, the Park Service officially gave back the name of Denali to the nations tallest peak – standing a proud 20,322′ tall – out for all to witness in all of its glory.  Not a cloud in sight … amazing!  Well once again we were inducted into the 30% club (seeing the mountain at all) and even the 10% club (seeing the mountain unobstructed).  Yes, we were blessed and quite proud to witness this historic moment of pride to the native Americans, Alaskans, and others who never understood why it was known as Mt. McKinley for so long._DSC3553If you look closely, you’ll see us at the summit of denali waving … LOL.IMG_1058Sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get when you venture into Denali’s interior.  For some strange reason, the sightings on this particular morning were few and far between, so when we arrived at the Eielson Visitor Center, the arctic ground squirrels running around in the deep fresh snow, got lots of unusual lens time._DSC3579_DSC3582_DSC3578Cute little guys too.  It reminded me that it’s not just bears, moose, wolves, caribou, and dall sheep – aka The Big 5 – that call Denali NP home.DSC_1286-2Of course though, I was there for bears, especially in the snowy landscape, so I was quite excited when this one came along, though I pretty much had too much lens.  For those of you who might wonder … we’re in the safety of the shuttle bus and this wasn’t cropped!DSC_1356An unusual sighting were these dall sheep ewes and their young traveling on the river bed.  In our 8 previous trips, I had never seen them that low.  DSC_1416Now when you arrive into Denali in early Spetember, you’re really there for two things … the fall colors and the moose rut.  Sometimes, you get both.  🙂DSC_1562DSC_1679These guys were out in full force for the rut and congregating together, sizing each other up I would imagine, and following the estrous cows in the area.  All of their antlers were clean, already shed velvet for the most part.  If you’ve only seen moose in the lower 48, you really need to see them in Alaska to appreciate their size.  It’s not just those giant vegetables that grow bigger in Alaska.  LOLDSC_1701DSC_1876A favorite of mine are the ptarmigan, especially this time of year when they’re transitioning from their usual rust color to white to aid in their camouflage from predators in the winters snowy landscape.  Quite unusual to find it perched in a tree … such beautiful birds.DSC_2052More landscape images of Denali looming in the distance, still roughly 33 miles away (as the crow flies).  There’s no denying the grandeur of Denali.DSC_7132Grizzly bears were out and about during the week – solo adults, as well as sows with cubs, and sub-adults too.  These bears can get quite big, but remain smaller than the coastal brown bears that feed on salmon.DSC_2351Caribou posing in the fall colored landscape is always a sight that takes your breath away.  Also primarily free from their velvet cover on their antlers, they are quite striking when their head is lifted and those antlers stand out proudly.DSC_2482Of course, just because their velvet-free doesn’t mean that they don’t itch, as you can see this one thrashing its antlers violently in the brush.DSC_2432One evening, while out looking for bears, we watched this bull caribou take off at full throttle over the braided river landscape and up the Savage River.  Not sure if something was after it or it simply got spooked, but it was amazing to see the territory that they could cover in pursuit.  Poor guy was exhausted and took a bit of a breather as he simply pranced about.DSC_2589Before long, off he excellerated again up towards the road and over the hill.  DSC_2593Yes, Denali is impressive … both the mountain and the national park.DSC_7144Next Up:  More from Denali

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Calling All Craniacs

One of my favorite sights to see in Alaska, or anywhere for that matter, is the image of sandhill cranes flying overhead … oh, and the sound of them as they call out to each other, let’s not forget that.  On our approach to Fairbanks, I heard distinctive calling out of the sandhills and I hoped that we would have good sightings in town.DSC_0568We figured that we would go to Creamers Field, a place where I first saw sandhill cranes in Alaska numerous years ago.  Sure enough … they were there …. coming in and taking off.  As luck would have it too, we hit Fairbanks and Creamers during the Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival.  Perfect timing for a self-proclaimed craniac like me!DSC_9923The fields were filled with sandhills of various ages, as well as geese and other birds, and the occasional hawk that would swoop in and cause a commotion within the smaller birds.DSC_0184Whether in the air or on the ground, there was a lot of calling out and communication going on with these beautiful cranes.  Photographically, it was awesome to shoot them amidst the yellow wildflowers that sporadically filled the field.DSC_0803Eagle-eye Tom spotted a juvenile crane that caught a small rodent while feeding in the field and pranced around quite a bit with it, causing both the adults and the other juveniles to take chase.DSC_9987But this young wasn’t to be denied his prize.DSC_0011Always fascinating were the take-offs of the cranes, usually 3-7 at a time.  So graceful and skilled in their execution of pre-flight and eventually flight.DSC_0389We could see them soaring overhead, with their magnificent and impressive wingspan, all throughout town.  Of course, you could hear them calling out too.  Love that sound.DSC_0422We visited the field the next day too, though at that point, the festival was over.  That didn’t matter to them though, as they were still there calling and flying in and out.  🙂DSC_0868DSC_0270On a side note, Tom and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary in Fairbanks too.  Love you babe.  Seems like we should have gone to Chena Hot Springs for an official anniversary, but the weather wasn’t cooperating for any chance at more northern light sightings.IMG_1038Next Up:  Denali National Park

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

On The Sunny Side

Onward on the Richardson Highway, we headed towards Paxson and the east entrance to the famous Denali Highway.  Some of you might remember that we traveled this road last year, got magnificent mountain views on the east side and about 2/3 of the way across, inclimate weather on the west side, and saw the aurora borealis in between.  We hoped for the aurora and the wonderful views, but hoped for no repeat of all of that rain on the other side of this 124-mile, mostly gravel road, truly the “road less traveled”.

Though we were in some nasty weather early in the morning, it lifted to scattered clouds and less rain predicted as the day progressed.
_DSC3422When we arrived to Paxson, we began our path onto the “highway”, at least as far as the paved road went.  So far, this was the beginning of a repeat with respect to the weather we experienced last year.  The views overlooking the Alaskan Range were once again magnificent!_DSC3427_DSC3433We decided, like last year, to hang out on the east side and try our luck at spotting the northern lights.  Fat chance that we would see it again, but it was too tempting to pass up the chance.  We set our alarms for about midnight, woke up reluctantly, and saw nothing at first.  Re-setting the alarm for another 30 minutes, we then woke up and once our eyes adjusted, there it was … and off I went in a jiffy!DSC_6974DSC_6983Two things, other than the obvious, always come to mind when I view the aurora borealis.  First, how each aurora sighting is so different than the last and how the aurora evolves as the night wears on.DSC_6991DSC_6993Second is that no matter how cold it is, or how cold you should feel (especially when you’ve been warmed up in the RV sleeping, in your pjs, when you hurriedly race out only half dressed for the temperatures that you’re about to endure), but as soon as you see natures light show, you never even give the slightest thought to the cold.  That is, until the illumination and dance stops, even just briefly, and the cold reaches your brain again until … you guessed it, until it emerges again.  LOL.  I still get the same euphoria rushing over me when I witness the lights, pulsing and dancing across the vast landscape and overhead in the sky.  Like no other feeling in the world!  DSC_6995DSC_7003But all good things must come to an end … and it was time for our return to a early morning’s slumber.  When we awoken, there was that magnificent view again … just doesn’t get much better than this alond the “Denali”._DSC3444_DSC3468Poor Tom had a few scary moments though this time.  As we cross the highway, we’re always acutely aware that there’s hunting along the way.  As I spotted a few caribou not far from the road, I got all excited and began the process of immediately grabbing my gear for images, but I couldn’t for fear of the hunting that was literally happening right off the road this time.  I’m talking adults and children, armed with shotguns/rifles, walking along the roadside looking to flush out birds, I would imagine.  So, Tom made the decision to not stop the RV once he saw that and headed out.  I guess he knows me too well and didn’t want to deal with any repercussions.  _DSC3470Glad I grabbed a bunch of images of the views along the way we left._DSC3493_DSC3442As beautiful as it was on the east side, we knew that heavy rains and snow were due on the east side, so we aborted our travel on the Denali Highway for this year.  Funny, because last year, it was exactly the same._DSC3514A last minute decision was made to head up to Fairbanks, on our way to Denali National Park.  That’s one of the things that I love so much about when we travel to Alaska.  Though we have a few definite plans, there are weeks of “flying by the seat of our pants”, being responsive to what nature throws at us and what our spirits guide us to do.  Got to love that!IMG_1023Next Up:  Fairbanks surprises

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Seals, Sea Otters, & Sea Lions … Oh My!

We never know what to expect when we arrive in Valdez.  Usually, we treated to an adventure of some type and the weather generally is a mixed bag.  The landscape is always fairly predictable, while the wildlife sightings are varied … sometimes we get grizzly bears,   black bears, sea otters, bald eagles, and bunny rabbits.

We decided to try our luck with finding some bears by the salmon hatchery, but we didn’t find any this trip.  We did see the usual bald eagles hanging out for an easy dinner and lots of other birds.  Then we saw them … lots of seals … in a feeding frenzy going after the salmon which were high in numbers._DSC6339Now this wasn’t the first time that we’ve seen the seals, but it’s the first time that they were so numerous, close, and quite honestly, so animated.  They were quite curious with us and would often come close and give us great photo ops.  How absolutely adorable they were!_DSC6080In seemingly a sea full of salmon, they swam about … probably trying to figure out which one to get first.  I wondered if they went after the females for the roe like the bears do?_DSC6400Like the bears, they were quite skilled fishermen, while those poor salmon barely had a chance.  It seemed like they were sometimes just catching them, then releasing them, and chasing down another…. just like the bears!_DSC6273_DSC6000DSC_9791Not to be outdone, the sea otters joined in on the fun._DSC6105I had to laugh how they navigated the waves of the sound, never losing grip of their fresh catch.  Now I’ve seen otters before, but never catching whole, live fish like this!_DSC6117_DSC6118There were 2 otters working together and would be very observant of the other marine life in the area doing their own hunting …_DSC6124… like this sea lion!  He was quite a bit bigger than the seals, who were quite bigger than the sea otters._DSC6181I couldn’t tell if this was mom and baby seal or two amorous seals, but they were certainly affectionate with each other … so wonderful to witness._DSC6314Salmon after salmon, they dined at a virtual smorgasbord of delicacies._DSC6356_DSC6371I was so fascinated with their big eyes and how they worked their nostrils in and out of the water.  There was also such color variations between the different seals._DSC6395However, they consistently caught their salmon and would swim near us and pose with their prize, almost as if it were presenting the fish to us.  I was truly honored to be in their presence and so grateful to watch them swim, play, hunt, and feed._DSC6332OK, so we went for the bears, but we got the seals, sea otters, and sea lions.  Sometimes, you just never know what you’re going to get, never know why you visit where and when you did, but I can tell you one thing … WE WERE THRILLED!  I think that this guy was happy too.  Doesn’t he look like he’s smiling?  🙂_DSC6450Next up:  The Denali Highway

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com