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

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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

2015 Year In Review – Part 2

I hope that everyone enjoyed Part 1 of the 2015 Year In Review … but the year wasn’t over where we left off … oh no, far from it.  So make yourself comfortable and enjoy the ride of June through December.

“Road Trip!”  Not just any road trip, but a cycling one with friends across country and back.  First stop, Virgina.  There Tom, Todd, and John had the honor to represent Team USA in the 2015 World Police & Firefighter Games.  They were competing in the mountain biking and road cycling events.  I know that it was quite an honor to march in the Opening Ceremonies Parade of Countries, featuring these skilled athletes from all over the world.DSC_4724Tom competed in the road criterium race and was awarded 3rd Place.  Not bad for a guy who doesn’t ever compete in road cycling events.  🙂  Shout out to his sponsor Tune Cycles in Boca Raton, FL.  DSC_3753In the mountain biking event, Tom took top honors and was awarded the Gold Medal for his effort.  A nice repeat from his last appearance at the World Games in Indianapolis, where he also finished first.  So proud of my World Champion hubby!  Yes, he’s my sherpa, but also quite the athlete.DSC_4812I never made it to the road race, since I had something even more important to do.  See, my daughter Kelli was having her “White Coat Ceremony” for her Physician Assistant program, so off I went to Jacksonville to support her honor.  Such a proud momma.  :-)MIMG_2677The guys continued on their way out west, stopping to ride the trails along the way.  I met back up with them in Park City, with much anticipation for some photo shoots, but the weather had other ideas.  Either way, it was gorgeous.DSC_4862No trip to Utah is ever complete with visiting the Moab area, especially if you’re with 3 cycling fanatics.  No worries, Arches NP and Canyonlands were just down the street for me.DSC_4886

While in Canyonlands NP, the guys mountain biked the Shafer Overlook Trail, a place Tom & I had visited before and I told him “no way, no how would I drive down that thing”.  Well, you guessed it, that’s just what I did … well, not me driving … thanks Rachel.DSC_5059On our way east again, we stopped at Grand Junction & Fruita, CO – also a mecca for cyclists.  For me, there was the beauty of the Grand Mesa area, as well as Colorado National Monument.  I have a feeling that we might be seeing more of this area again.DSC_5184DSC_5346-HDRMy only request on this road trip was Mt. Evans and those mountaintop mountain goats.  Couldn’t believe my eyes when we arrived to a closed sign for some major road repairs lasting months.  Since this was a cycling trip, Tom took one for the team and road the 15 mile winding road, in the high winds and cold, with about 4500 foot vertical elevation climb, all in an effort to get me those mountain goats.  What a guy!  IMG_2799-2IMG_0898The World Champion not only made it to the top, but got some world class images to prove it!  So grateful to him.DSC_5550Not having enough mountain climbing, Tom and his buddies decided to give Pikes Peak a try.  As you can see, the weather was threatening … wind, rain, sleet, snow … they had it all.DSC_5292Back in Colorado Springs, of course The Garden Of The Gods is a must.DSC_5351Along the way, we stopped along the Bourbon Trail, and I learned more about bourbon than I ever thought was possible!  Such an amazing process and beautiful countryside.DSC_5784When we returned home, it wasn’t long before our 9th return trip to … you guessed it … Alaska.  _DSC5938Katmai National Park & Preserve is always a MUST when making the journey out there and the bears didn’t disappoint.  Dave of AK Adventures and Wes of Beluga Air once again treated us to some spectacular inflight views and amazing bear encounters.DSC_6195DSC_7677DSC_8370Each visit to Alaska is so different from any other, so it always makes the trip exciting.  This year we were treated to very nice weather.  By that I mean, cold, but for the most part sunny._DSC3327Though we generally see the sea otters, seals, and sea lions while there, no previous encounters were of this level.  I mean, the marine life practically presented themselves to us… with their salmon offering as well.  🙂_DSC6332Now that I don’t “stalk” the aurora like I used to, I find that it presents itself more readily!  Probably the most spiritual phenomenon that I have ever witnessed, there’s nothing like witnessing the northern lights.  Sure, it’s frigid cold while out there, but honestly, I get carried away by natures light show and I don’t even feel it.  If I could wish something for everyone to witness, it would be the aurora borealis!DSC_6995We’re usually pretty lucky when it comes to seeing “the mountain” out in its full glory, this year was even more special.  See, we were there for the official return of the name “Denali” to the mountain (previously known as Mt. McKinley, though previously to that, Denali).  I felt so proud to be a part of that history and as you can see, the mountain was proud too and really showed off as if in graditude._DSC3553The moose rut season was getting close, as the bulls were almost shed of their velvet and congregating with the other bulls, all following the ladies.DSC_381413 days after returning home from Alaska, I had a special treat for myself in store … a return to Alaska.  This time, Kaktovik was my destination and the stars of my trip were the amazing polar bears of the arctic.  It was a dream of a lifetime and I had to pinch myself often to be sure that I was actually living that dream._DSC6749_DSC1471_DSC9445_DSC7514If I had two more wishes, I would have wished that Tom was there with me.  No, not to carry my gear, but to experience their beauty, silly antics, and share in the awe of it all.  The other wish would be that everyone could also see the polar bears of the arctic and judge for themselves the importance of preserving their home for them and us as well.  Hey, you can, as we did, see the northern lights there too, so it could be just one trip!  🙂_DSC0014OK, now I’m feeling a bit spoiled … but we also treated ourselves to some autumn glory, as seen off the Blue Ridge Parkway and Ashesville, NC area.  Such a treat to this Florida girl._DSC4161_DSC4136Yes, 2015 was a dream come true on all levels.  Now that I have more time to fully enjoy travel, photography, and personal business pursuits, who knows where the road will lead.  Life is such a journey … its path is often unknown … its duration is even more unsure.  The only thing that I know for certain is that I will live life to the fullest and challenge myself with new experiences and adventures along the way.  It will be hard to top 2015, but … “challenge accepted”.  Thanks to all who made 2015 possible and shared moments with us along the way … especially Jen, Liz, Jess, Amy M, Cris, Kathleen, Kim, Kelli & Mitchell, Nicole, Violet, Bob, Maria, Todd, John, Rachel, Amy H, Rick, Dave, Phil, Rebecca, Renee & Al, Alex & the gang from Kaktovik, Kem & John, my mom & Murray, and of course, Tom.

Here’s to 2016!

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Next Up:  More from Alaska

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy     (www.tnwaphotography.com)

Did You Think I Was Done With The Bears?

As I finish up on the bears of Katmai NP & Preserve, we have more images from our initial set of spring cubs and their mom.  We seemed to see these guys just about everywhere that we went….. not that I’m at all complaining … to the contrary, I was elated.DSC_8219 As they would move along the edge of the river, mom would pay close attention to the boars in the area … for though this is not breeding season, sometimes boars and young cubs don’t mix well.DSC_8292 When she saw something that she didn’t like, she would head up on the ridge line for better options.DSC_8296 Eventually, when the threat was gone, she would then return her and the cubs to the rivers edge for some more fishing.  This sow was not the best fish catcher out there … she should take some time to watch Flapjack … the most skilled by far!DSC_8319 When the cubs weren’t in hot pursuit of following mom, they would periodically use that time to get some playing in … way too cute!DSC_8345 One this particular day, we opted to carry only one tripod, so Tom would occasionally improvise while I was using it.  Quite resourceful, I say, using that big backpack as a backrest on the rocky shore.IMG_2927 Glad he did too, so he could get low profile images like this one!DSC_8371 Of course, sometimes he improvised in other ways … like using my head for his tripod!  Thanks Dave for capturing this very special moment.  To be honest, I couldn’t have cared less.  Nothing can distract me from photographing the bears…. just figured that I would deal with him later.  😉IMG_0984This little one is obviously an over-achiever in the making.
DSC_8614 OK, who can guess who the cub in the back is?  Of course, it’s the same cub who we often found standing up.  LOL.  When they stand, to me, they seem to take on behaviors like our own children.  Wouldn’t you agree?DSC_8392 Now for the 3rd set of spring cubs from this years trip … meet Ying & Yang.  I had seen them from the floatplane as we were beginning to land, but they were off running, the opposite direction, on the vast landscape, so I was thinking that we weren’t going to meet this sought after trio.  Luckily, we did.  Aptly named due to drastic difference in coloration.  What’s really cool about this is that I’ve never seen such a light colored cub!  It’s not blonde … almost a grey silver color!  Really, really unique! In 9 years of photographing bears, I’ve never seen anything like it.  Not only its extremely light color, but its fur was like a fluff ball.DSC_8888I was, as everyone else was, amazed and became entranced with their differences.  DSC_6577 Towards the end of the day, this mom led her cubs up on the hillside and searched for somewhere to lay down to nurse them, but the cubs had other ideas and we never got to see it before we had to leave.DSC_8507 DSC_8524 So all in all, 2015 was an amazing trip to Katmai NP & Preserve for us.  We had such varying photo ops …. whether it be simply solo bears chasing and catching salmon ….DSC_9120 … to not one, or two, or three, but 4 sows, each with 2 spring cubs (though only able to photograph 3 of them) …DSC_9207 … to photographing spring cubs playing together while mom was fishing …DSC_8958  … to being able to capture tender bonding moments such as this moment between sow and one of her cubs, it was amazing.  Unbelieveable how each trip is so different from the last.  For those that don’t understand why we keep going back … there’s your answer.DSC_8985 Back at the floatplane, just prior to boarding, we paused to get a shot of Tom & I, with Dave (www.goseebears.com) and Wes (www.belugaair.com), our friends.  We highly recommend the services of both of them.  🙂IMG_2982 Yes, we’re now back to returning past Homer Spit, and heading towards Beluga Lake, with nothing but a HUGE SMILE across my face … some things, never changed._DSC3084 The same goes true for a celebratory dinner at Fat Olives in town.  Yum yum!IMG_2956Next up:  2015 – Photographic Year In Review

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Cute Things Come In Small Packages

Continuing on with the splendor of Katmai NP & Preserve …..

Usually when we visit in late August, we get lots of males or single females without cubs.  When we see  sows with cubs, they’re usually yearlings (cubs just over 1.5 years old).  So you can imagine my excitement when out of the bushes emerged this gorgeous blonde sow and her two spring cubs.  These cubs are about 8 months old and just the cutest things ever!
DSC_7596 I mean … how CUTE are these two adorable sibling cubs?  Sporting those natal collars and inquisitive expressions … all the while keeping their eye on their mom, but also watching us, full of wonder.DSC_7645 They are so curious about everything that they encounter … fish, rocks, branches … doesn’t matter.  Usually they tend to stick close together when moms not right next to them.DSC_7639 They’re pretty obedient too.  When you watch the command that these sows have over her cubs, it makes you wonder where many humans went wrong with their own young.  Sure these cubs test the limit every now and then, but they are quickly reprimanded and they learn quickly where the line is drawn.DSC_7647 DSC_7642In case you’re wondering why these two cubs look so different, it’s because they probably had two different fathers.  See, these sows are quite promiscuous and mate with different boars during the season.  So it’s not at all unusual to have cubs that don’t resemble one another, color-wise.
DSC_7677Mom keeps them quite close, catching salmon for them to feed upon and modeling the skills needed for survival.  While they stay quite attentive to her, passing distractions, like this bird, sometimes win over the attention of the young curious cubs.  LOL
DSC_7764 Sibling cubs can also have quite different personalities too.  This one cub in the back was always the more cautious one between these two and often we found him standing up to investigate the situations better.DSC_7942 However, both interact together and though they might bicker about who’s fish it is, for example, often they share … or take turns.DSC_8051 As with most young animals, they can be quite animated and silly.  This little one had just fallen over and was trying to right itself … quite the rolly polly … you can’t help but be entertained watching them.DSC_9243 Sometimes, in their anxiousness to be more grown up, they tend to bite off more than they can handle.  Case in point, this little springer picks up this huge salmon … already dead … and tries to drag it around and impress the others.  LOLDSC_9096 These two sibling cubs, another set, had the best time ever playing in the creeks waters, as mom chased down salmon nearby.  DSC_8965 DSC_8958 So curious they were … climbing, chewing, shaking, and pouncing on the nearby shrubs in the creek.DSC_8954 Now back to the original two siblings, they found their own trees to play with on the banks.  Of course, their mom stayed nearby as well.DSC_6668 DSC_6758 Again, there are more images to share, including another most interesting set of cubs.  Yes, we had a great time out there and the weather, though more threatening on this day, was still not bad.  Life is good.  🙂IMG_2980Up Next:  Polar opposites … no, not polar bears (that will come later).

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

The Happiest Place on Earth … Katmai!!

Always a favorite adventure for me each year is our return to Katmai National Park & Preserve for some amazing bear encounters and photography.  As we have for the past 3 years, we enlisted the services of Dave Bachrach of AK Adventures to serve as our guide and Wes Head of Beluga Air to get us there safely.

On this trip to Alaska so far it had been pretty good weather, so we hoped that our luck would continue.  Sure enough, on the day of our departure for Katmai, the skies were clear and we were psyched to board the Beaver floatplane for the leisurely trip over.  Beluga Lake was just about as calm as could be.

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Of course, I kept some gear in the cabin with me, ready to take some aerial shots along the way.  This image is of Homer Spit which is a road that extends into Kachemak Bay, with the amazing mountain and glacial views as a backdrop.  Gorgeous!_DSC3085 Mt. Augustine, situated in Cook Inlet, is the most active volcano of the Eastern Aleutian arc.  On our way to Katmai, we always fly over it, but don’t always have such a clear view. Last eruption was in 2006, which can play havoc for aviation in the area.DSC_6155 Once we landed in the interior of Katmai NP & Preserve, Tom was able to pull up his hip waders as he exited the floatplane.  His steady hands and feet are always appreciated, especially by me as we transfer our backpacks, camera gear, and tripods._DSC3054Almost as soon as we began our hike from the lake to the river and creek where the bears were congregating, we saw evidence of their presence … the bear print … one of my favorite sightings.  🙂
DSC_6182 Once we reached the river, our first glimpse was that of this sitting brown bear … stationary in the waters and just chillin.DSC_6161 Though it’s hard to judge the size of a sitting bear, once they stand up, it’s much easier to tell that this was no mini bear.  LOLDSC_6171 As we hiked off the beaten path, in search of bears a bit more secluded, we ran into this beautiful, yet scruffy looking, bear fishing for salmon in the creek.  My favorite part of photographing bears is when they look at us … and our eyes meet and we become unitied in place and time.  Bears eyes are so captivating to me, I find it hard to get behind the lens because I want to see them firsthand.  DSC_6195 While we remained still, simply observing this bear, it decided that fishing was a bit slow and it would sit along the creeks bank and wait for some salmon to swim close enough to it, that it didn’t have to exert too much effort.  Again, the stare vacillated between looking for salmon and checking us out.DSC_6282 Eventually, it found what it was looking for and in a quick lunge, it was over for the poor salmon.DSC_6518 Many different solo bears were out and about, staking a little bit of geography as their fishing spot … all the while the occasional human fisherman were out there as well.DSC_7026 Everyone was catching salmon, but none more proficiently than the brown bears.  🙂DSC_7055 DSC_7046 Preferentially, the bears seek out the female salmon, since the eggs are quite the delicacy. When they find one, they go straight for the roe.  In this image, you can see the eggs flying out of the fish as the bear tears into it.DSC_7071For some strange reason, I had just asked Dave about an unforgettable boar from a few years back.  To my surprise Dave said that he had seen him earlier this year.  I was quite thrilled because he was quite large and older, so I was happy that he had made it over the last two years.

Tom called out a large bear coming around the corner of the creek, so we watched for it as it approached.  I couldn’t believe my eyes … it was my long lost friend, Flapjack!  The same boar that I had just asked about.  Now I was over the top ecstatic as he got nearer and nearer.
DSC_7220I know it sounds crazy, but he got pretty close, then just stared at us, and I felt that perhaps he remembered us.  LOL.  People tell me that I humanize animals a bit, but it was truly a magical moment for me.  I remember the first time, 2 years ago, when we encountered him.  He was, by far, the largest boar I had ever seen.  Quite identifiable by its right ear injury, which left his ear split and flat … like a pancake … hence the nickname “Flapjack”.
DSC_7449 A proficient fishing machine, as you can well imagine by his size, he still had great technique and was catching more than his share of salmon.  He was also quite quick in devouring it.  🙂DSC_7491 Yes, we were quite happy so far with our adventure … especially since it was my birthday!  I considered Flapjack’s visit as my present, as well as the amazing brown bear activity and the awesome weather.  So many images this year, so the blog will feature 2 more posts of these amazing creatures.IMG_2929Not to be outdone by the bears, we celebrated our bear viewing with some sushi of our own.  🙂  Oh, and I can’t forget about that amazing appetizer of brussel sprouts too!IMG_0978IMG_0975

Next Up:  Cubs, Cubs, & more Cubs!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

In Search of Bears

OK, so on our way to Homer, Alaska, we ALWAYS have to stop off at the Russian River Campground for a few nights and as usual, we hope to find some brown bears fishing for salmon on the river, amongst the fishermen.

Used to be that the bears were plentiful … but we’ve noticed that their numbers seem to be dropping off on recent years.  For the last 2 years and this year as well, we were told that the bear sightings had been very limited.  Last few years, we were lucky though and bears showed up – last year on my birthday!  Would our luck continue?  When we arrived to the boardwalk along the river and worked our way down the first stairs that accessed the river, we didn’t see any bears, just the gleaming of the suns rays through the trees.

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The 2nd set of stairs leading to the river someone asked us if we wanted to find bears.  Of course!  He said that there were 2 bears playing in the water.  Off I went in a hurry, fighting off the urge to run, then wondering if the guy was simply laughing at us scurrying after them.  I hoped that wasn’t the case.

Then I spotted them … 2 sub-adult brown bears … playing in the river water like two sibling brothers in the tub!  LOL

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Yep, we hit it again!  I couldn’t believe our luck right about this point!  They began playing and “fighting”, to the thrill of myself and all of the other onlookers.

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I couldn’t help but wonder if these weren’t the same two who were here last year with their momma, but now they were perhaps big enough to be kicked out and therefore hanging together for companionship and safety.  They sure seemed to have a level of comfort with each other and the fighting was more like fun than anything else more serious. DSC_5905-2

They each began walking over in our direction …

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It was such a thrill to photograph them as they were coming closer.  Understand that we’re on a boardwalk with a rocky shoreline, thick shrubs, plastic netting, and trees between us and the bears.  They’re also very habituated towards people, so I really didn’t think anything of it.

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All of a sudden, the larger of the two grabs one of the tree branches and lifts itself over the netting barrier and begins to climb … the tree!

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Now, I’ve seen black bears climbing trees regularly, and even brown bear cubs climbing, but these guys were sub-adults and quite big to be climbing the trees!

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It was having the best time jumping around in the tree and began to shimmy its way back down the tree.  I was shocked, fascinated, and thrilled to watch it all unfolding before me.  Finally, it turned to us and gave us this priceless glance …. How could anyone NOT LOVE that face?!DSC_5919-2 Once back on the ground, which was right next to the boardwalk, we saw it feasting its eyes on approaching the walk, so we retreated.  Sure enough, when it had plenty of distance between any of the onlookers, it did in fact take the boardwalk for a bit.DSC_5951

Eventually, it dipped into the thick brush and wilderness and we never saw it … or its buddy, who we had lost contact with when the larger was on the boardwalk … again.  We were there several more days, but never saw it again … or any signs of its presence.  Wished we would have, but we were quite thrilled to have shared that limited time together.  I do worry about those, and other bears in the area.  Though photographers love to see them active and mingling around, not everyone shares that love.  Of course, humans have, and will always unfortunately, do stupid things in their presence, thus perhaps teaching them bad habits.  I would just love to share their home in the wild, in a respectful way, and continue to observe their awesomeness.  🙂_DSC2915Next up:  Finally reaching our destination of Homer.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Yes, 2014 Was A Very Good Year!

I think one of my favorite times of the year is the New Year.  For some, it’s about making BIG party plans and ringing in the new year with champagne toasts, dancing, and fireworks.  For me, it’s a much more reflective time … a time to take stock in the year’s adventures, personal achievements, challenges conquered along the way perhaps … and especially a time to look forward … to 2015!

I made a promise at the beginning of 2014 – to take the time needed to travel at least quarterly.  I wanted to experience new places, new adventures, new friends, and of course, new challenges.  I had some personal goals related to even this blog and I’m happy to say that I think that I accomplished most of them.  As usual, travel and photography went hand in hand and played a large role in my life for 2014.  I’ll try to re-cap some of it – very briefly – here.

I travel so much with Tom, aka my husband and “sherpa”, and I began to wonder if I could make it into the wilderness shooting without him.  LOL.  So, while he went off to snowboard for weeks on end, I decided to head out to Yellowstone NP in the dead of the winter (Jan) without him.  I wanted to see “what I was made of” … and to my surprise, I realized that when I needed to get it done myself, I actually could!  In addition, I made a bunch of wonderful friends as well on Daniel Cox’s Natural Exposure Invitational Photo Tour.

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For 4 months (Jan thru Apr), I had the pleasure of discovering that a pair of eastern screech owls had taken up residence in our owl boxes, but they graced us with raising 3 baby owlets as well.  I have to admit that it was a challenge, but the experience was incredible!  I’ll never forget my astonishment and joy when we peeked in, via a small “Go Pro-like” camera and saw 3 tiny furry owls, all bopping and circling their heads as owls do.  My heart melted and my love for owls immediately soared!

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In Feb we joined my daughter and her husband for some snowboarding/skiing in UT and a bit of photography as well.  I spent a few days at Antelope Island SP capturing bison, deer,  pronghorn, eagle, coyote, porcupine, and other images.  Loved it!

_DSC7954 _DSC8107 Of course, Everglades NP is always just around the corner for us, so several trips to photograph the migratory and resident birds were part of our year.

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Orlando Wetlands Park was a new location for me Jess was gracious enough to show it to me one day.

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We also made it up to Vero Beach and Blue Cypress Lake for some osprey photography with Jess and Michael … always a pleasure.

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In April, we flew out to Denver and made the circuit between Denver, Colorado Springs (Garden of the Gods), Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Monument Valley, Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Dead Horse Point SP, and eventually Rocky Mountain NP.  For part of the trip, we met up with Rodney Lange for some landscape shooting, including some night photography.  We had such a great time!

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From May to June, the early mornings and early evenings were filled with burrowing owl photography, as we’re blessed with having many burrows within 30 minutes of our home.  To spend hours with the parents and their young and literally watch them grow up before our eyes is always a thrill and an honor.

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Another endearing time was had in June when I almost got to witness the hatching of a newborn sandhill crane colt.  I say almost because my friends and I witnessed the cracking of the egg, the hole in the egg enlarging, but the threatening skies kept us from the “whole enchilada” as they say.  The next morning we were thrilled to photograph the newborn colt as it already toured around the wetlands with both of its parents.  Yes, I’m also a craniac for sure!  (Shout out to Monique!)

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A quick trip to the Palouse was also made, since I was already in San Diego for work.  The rolling hills of the farmlands and the shadows cast during sunrise and sunset provide for variations on the landscape … always beautiful.

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“The mountains are calling, so I must go” … for me that was the message I received from the Canadian Rockies.  In late June and early July, we traveled within Alberta and British Columbia to Yoho NP, Jasper NP, Banff NP, Lake Louise, Waterton Lakes NP, as well as Glacier NP in Montana.  Landscapes to die for were around every corner and amazing wildlife, as well as the company of good friends … I didn’t want to leave.

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Our last “big trip” was to Alaska, on our 8th trip.  It was as good as any of the others … and in some ways, even better.  From photographing the brown bears of the Russian River area, to flying out for a few days of Katmai NP bears (my personal favorites) – in the company of fellow photographer and friend Tom Blandford, to touring Valdez and kayaking the ice caves, to crossing for the first time the Denali Highway on our way to Denali NP and being treated to incredible scenery along the way during the day and the mystique of the northern lights in the darkness of the night, and finally varied conditions while staying at Denali NP, including a winter snowstorm … it was all a blast.  All that while catching up with our Alaskan friends.  🙂

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It seemed fitting that on Dec. 20th, I returned to the Deering Estate to photograph the winter equinox and it’s sunrise … OK, I know that was one day early, but who cares, it was fabulous either way.

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So, as you can see, 2014 was an amazing year for us and one that will be hard to beat.  Of course, we’ll give it our best to do so.  As I reflect on my goals for this new year, I can assure you that 2015 will have some exciting adventures and big events as well, so stay tuned for more.

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Wishing everyone a wonderful and healthy 2015, with lots of photographic opportunities either in solitude or in the presence of friends (both good), but always one with nature.  🙂

Regards,

Debbie & Tom Tubridy (TNWA Photography)

It Just Keeps Getting Better! (Part 3: Katmai NP)

Continuing on with Part 3 from our recent trips to Katmai NP & Preserve….

We last spent time with this amazing sow and her young solo cub, where the cub had one thing in mind … nursing on mom, while we were in awe of the purring sounds coming out of the cub while doing so.

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However, soon mom had something else on her mind also … salmon … and soon leaves her cub briefly to enter the river in search of something to eat.

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Doesn’t take too long before she has found herself a nice catch.

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Consuming the salmon is short work for these skilled bears.

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Meanwhile, the cub awakens and becomes curious as to where mom went.  Standing on its hind legs is generally reserved for danger, simple curiosity, or getting a better view of its surroundings, as in this case.

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Once it spots its mom, off it goes to join her.  After some tugging and growling with the mom over the salmon catch, the cub finally wins that battle … as it learns how to take care of itself.

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And so she goes … back for another meal.

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We observed numerous bears over the course of the day.  This particular bear has caught itself a fine specimen.

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Not just any salmon, but a female, as evidenced by some of the roe flying about as it is chomped on.

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As it emerges from the river, often shaking off the excess water is one of the first things that they do.

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We noticed that this bear headed straight towards us with its catch. Awesome cooperation buddy!

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Then we happened to see it glancing to its right.  That’s when we realized what was going on ….

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This even bigger bear had set its sights on it, and its salmon, as it came charging in, then halted.

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Right about then, this bear walked right past us, stared at us as if to test our intentions, then planted himself strategically on the other side of us, basically putting us between it and the other bear.

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From there it began to devour its salmon.  See, this was a smart bear, for it came by us and sat near to us, knowing that the other bear didn’t want to be near us.  Sows do the same thing often enough with their cubs.  Though not this year, but in years past, we’ve had them essentially drop them off with us for unofficial babysitting duties.  LOL

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Meanwhile the cub from earlier was up on the hillside, along with it entourage of gulls, which were just waiting for any leftover scraps from the cub’s salmon.

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As we began to leave (myself most unwillingly), I noticed the cub, its belly full of salmon and its mom’s milk, settled down and lounged back – it’s “buddha belly” all swollen and peered down at us.  It was one of the cutest things I had ever seen!

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So, was our time in Katmai National Park & Preserve!  Of course, our guide Dave was gracious enough to capture our farewell shot – Tom B, me, and my husband, Tom.  Yes, I believe there were smiles all around … even on Dave!

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If anyone is interested in bear viewing – day or overnight adventures – in Katmai, I highly recommend AK Adventures (www.goseebears.com).  Dave Bachrach is our guide, who came to us highly recommended by our other guides from years past.  We’ve ventured out with Dave for 3 years now and have enjoyed our trips with him immensely.  Of course, for flying out to Katmai, we also highly recommend Wes and Angela of Beluga Air in Homer (www.belugaair.com).  Flying in the bush can be a concern for many, but we always feel in good hands.

Until next year … I hope that the bears have a successful winter’s hibernation and remain free and safe in 2015.

Oh, and of course, watching all of those brown bears catching and eating all of that salmon made us hungry for our own sushi … Yummy!

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Up next in the blog … Homer, AK … my favorite town in Alaska!

© 2014  TNWA Photography