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

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

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.

DSC_1663 Debbie ready for action. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming D669668 copy

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

Another Day … Another Adventure! (Part 2 Katmai NP)

Ready for some more bears from Katmai NP?  I know that I was … so off we went again on an adventure in search of coastal brown bears.

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From the get-go, I knew that this would be an excellent adventure … the skies were less threatening and we had an amazing flight over the Cook Inlet and across the vast landscape of Katmai, looking for the perfect place to land.  Translation … where the bears are congregating in numbers.  🙂

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As we approach our initial location for the day, one thing to keep in mind is that the float plane must land in a lake large enough to support a landing, but also a take-off.  The bears generally aren’t in those lakes, but in the ribbons of waterways that connect the landscape, as you can see in the this image.  Each winding turn in those creeks, can yield a bear … often unknowingly until they are right there.

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Once landed, it’s time to pull up our boots, de-plane (us and all of our gear … ugh … always a pivotal moment … please no butterfingers when transferring camera gear), and secure our anchor.  Once safely on land, the real anticipation for the day to come begins.

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The day always begins with a nice brisk hike in search of the bears.  About at this point, I realize how grateful I am that I have my “sherpa” with me (aka my husband .  Our deal is … he carries the camera gear, I carry the food, fluids, clothes, and other supplies.  I think I make out the best … his pack easily goes 60+ pounds.

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On this day, we returned to Funnel Creek, where we had photographed this same sow and her cub yesterday.  We tried to cross the river, but the river was still quite swollen and the water level was too high to do so.  We spent some time with several of the bears from yesterday, a family of yellowlegs, and a very curious red fox.  I was quite thrilled with the fox, but not able to get great shots, because it got so close, that we could have touched it.  Not sure who was more surprised … me or the fox.  LOL

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After some time, our guide Dave and Wes decided to load up and try another location that looked pretty good as they initially flew over.

When we arrived at the river, we could immediately see several bears going about their fishing.  Every bear using a different technique … some chase relentlessly … some sit on the side of the river and simply wait … many navigate the waters with their heads underwater in a behavior known as “snorkeling”.

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As we visually navigated the landscape for the bears, we spotted this one bear … an enormous bear literally in the river with its head resting on the bank while sleeping, we believed.  It’s hard to tell in this image, but it was so big and its name must have been Jim… you know, as in Jim Croce’s “you don’t mess around with Jim”.  LOL

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Before long, the bears were seemingly emerging from all different directions.  Over the horizon, through the vegetation, down the river, across the river, and sometimes even behind us.

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Each made its way down to the river in search of salmon.  All were respectful of each other and especially of “Big Jim”.

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They didn’t seem to mind that we were in the travel zone or photographing them.  They simply would observe us, and deviate from their course just a tad, and carry on.  Of course, we and our lenses, keep close tabs on their whereabouts.

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Directly across the river from us was a sow and her single cub.  They rested in the sunshine and cool air.  Then it happened … the cub climbed up on its mom and started to nurse.

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Before long, we could hear the purring from the cub, as it nursed and we all knew that our day was complete.  If you have experienced this for yourself, you know what I mean, but the sound of cubs purring while nursing will make even the most hardened heart melt!  I still get emotional just remembering that moment.

This image reminds me of just how vulnerable a moment that this is for mom and cub.  As you can see, mom tries her best to stay aware of her surroundings and any impending threats.

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After 3-4 minutes, the nursing was over and they both sat up.  If you look closely, you’ll see the “milk mustache” on the young cub.  Sows will nurse their cubs for the entire span of time that the cubs remain with the mom.  Such good mommies they are.

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Before long, onto their sides they both go, as they roll around and scratch their bellies and bottoms.  Such is the life of a bear!

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Mom awakens first, probably because she’s now hungry, as they cub remains on its back in bliss.  When we watched these two, I couldn’t help but notice that the cub constantly had to keep itself touching its mom the entire time … whether it be it’s head, back, or in this case, feet … and I can’t help but relate to how human children do the same.

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Want to see more images from Katmai? … stay tuned for Thursday night, when Part 3 of Katmai gets posted!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

 

Katmai … Here We Come!

Rain, rain, rain … combined with fog, wind, and completely overcast skies.  That’s how it was the night before we were to fly over to Katmai NP.  When we woke up, it wasn’t raining, but the fog, wind, and heavy skies were still ominously present.  I told Tom that I wasn’t in a panic as I packed my gear, fluids, and nutrition … I was pretty sure that we weren’t flying out.  Thank goodness I was proved wrong!  Somehow, the fog on the lake lifted just enough and the trip was given a green light.

With us this year, we had the pleasure of spending a few days in Katmai with Tom Blandford, a friend of mine whom I met through the world of photography.  In addition, we had 2 lovely ladies who had been shut out by bad weather for several days already.  As the plane lifted off from the surface of Beluga Lake, I began the anticipation of what was to come… like a child the night before Christmas.  🙂

Because the weather had been very rainy, the rivers were a bit more swollen than usual, so we landed at “Just Enough” lake … that is, just enough room to land and take off safely.  LOL.  We unloaded and began our trek through the wilderness of Katmai NP & Preserve in search of coastal brown bears and lots of salmon.  See, they go hand in hand.

While we got to peek at a few bears from a distance, it wasn’t until we came across one not too far off that we began to get anxious with our gear.  Anticipating a bear’s next move is always challenging, but we seemed to get it right and before long we were greeted by a fabulous specimen coming around a corner, catching us a bit by surprise.

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Or guide, Dave, made sure that we were respectful to the bears personal space.  Our goal is also always to observe the bears in their natural behavior, rather than having them adjust to our presence, we would adjust to theirs.

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That plan always works perfectly … this bear accepted us being there without any reservations and before long, began chasing salmon swimming in the creek.

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We remained patiently observing this bear and let it pass us by.  It’s always quite the thrill for me when our eyes meet for the first time … OK, actually every time … to me, it’s the validation that we’re connected at that moment … in each other’s world, if you will.  Always amazing as well how they pass us so peacefully, not like how many would be led to believe.  For bears are actually very peaceful and predictable … honestly!

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Often people want to know how close we get to these magnificent creatures.  My answer varies with each situation, location, bear, etc … but you can see in this image that it’s not very far away at all.

Thanks to Dave of Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Thanks to Dave of Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Generally, the bears pass by and get on with their day at hand which mostly revolves around chasing down and eating salmon.  They are quite skilled at it too!

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Sometimes lens choice is an issue and your full image view becomes simply a head shot due to their proximity to us.  It’s a GOOD problem.

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Not all of the bears are chasing salmon, some are simply catching a siesta in the wilderness landscape.

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Of course, before long, they’re up and repeating the cycle … find salmon … chase salmon … catch salmon… eat salmon… and so their day goes on.

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Somebody looks as though they got caught raiding the cookie jar … or should I say the salmon pool.  LOL

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One of my favorite sightings of the day came with a sow and her young cub, probably a yearling.  We watched them as they made their way down the creek towards us.  The sow was a beauty too … a real blondie!

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Her cub followed her dutifully, not too far behind, and it was already checking things out for themselves along the way.

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As mom went on the hunt for salmon ….

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… her cub did the same.  It was amazing to me to see how it already had quite big paws and claws!

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When the young one would get a fish from mom, it would climb up on the shore to consume it, as mom continued to fish.

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Now on this trip, it wasn’t only bears of course.  There were a few birds … yellowlegs, juvenile harlequin ducks, ptarmigan, and of course, gulls.  The ptarmigan were so much fun to watch as they congregated in a group of perhaps a dozen and all took flight, with their beautiful markings showing the signs of the upcoming seasonal changes.

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Yes, it was a fun filled day so far and I for one, didn’t want it to end.  Looks like my new little friend didn’t want us to leave either!  LOL

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We pulled up our waders and made our way across the treacherous creek.  OK, maybe treacherous is a bit of an exaggeration, but the current was moving quite quickly and the water level was a bit higher than our boots!  The river rocks were also quite slippery and the water quite cold.  As I made it mostly across the creek safely, I quietly thanked goodness that Tom (aka my sherpa) had my gear safe and sound, and most importantly, dry.  What would I do without him?  I did however have a hole in my waders so I drained them out on the other side… woo hoo, it was quite refreshing!

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Heading back to the plane is always the worse part of the day, but we still had more time to spend in Katmai, so it was a bit easier to swallow.  Here’s a shot of Tom B. (aka not my sherpa Tom) and our pilot Wes of Beluga Air.

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That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more adventures from Katmai NP and my beloved coastal brown bears!

Thanks to Dave @ Go See Bears for capturing this image!

Thanks to Dave @ Go See Bears for capturing this image!

 

Did You Want More Katmai Bears?

I don’t know about you, but I personally can NEVER get enough of the wonderful bears of Katmai NP & Preserve.  I keep emphasizing the “Preserve” portion of Katmai because this year, we were actually not in the Park, but in the Preserve.  See, it makes all of the difference in the world to these bears.  More on that later.

Another one of the bears we spent time with this year I nicknamed “Scruffy”.  He was a beautiful bear, a bit younger and smaller than the ones in the last post, and he was in the process of shedding his fur, so essentially was going through that “awkward” stage.  LOL.

"Scruffy"

“Scruffy”

As you can see though, he was quite skilled as a fisherman as well, so it won’t be long before he gets big enough to compete with the likes of the larger boars of the area.

Scruffy gets ready to pounce on a nearby salmon

Scruffy gets ready to pounce on a nearby salmon

Got 'em!

Got ’em!

It is amazing to me how … when there is plenty of salmon for everyone, all of the bears seem to really get along well.

Let the feasting begin ....

Let the feasting begin ….

Not a scrap goes to waste ... leftovers get turned over to the gulls for clean-up duty

Not a scrap goes to waste … leftovers get turned over to the gulls for clean-up duty

All sorts of bears were along the shores and the waters of the creek in an attempt to fatten up before the winter while the going was good.

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Just like us humans, these bears, after an afternoon of feasting ultimately will reach the point when they are full and a siesta is in order.  So you might just find them sleeping on the banks ….

Imagine running into this on your hike!

Imagine running into this on your hike!

…. or simply resting in the brush, allowing their food some time to digest.

Waking the sleepy bear

Waking the sleepy bear

Then of course, it’s time to do it all over again!

Going for Round 2 - or maybe 4 or 5, who knows!

Going for Round 2 – or maybe 4 or 5, who knows!

One bear, we nicknamed him “Lazy Bear” would apparently be so full and fat, that he would simply arrive at the edge of the water, sit down in the water, and fish from that spot.  I mean you could literally see him sizing up the fishing opportunities from his seated position, getting up only to actually capture the “sure bet” salmon.  I guess we could have called him “sedentary bear”.  🙂

This looks like a good place to fish

This looks like a good place to fish

"Sitting on the shore of the creek ... watching the salmon swimming away"

“Sitting on the shore of the creek … watching the salmon swimming away”

Expend no extra energy than necessary

Expend no extra energy than necessary

Before we left Katmai Preserve, we were treated to the only sow and cubs that we encountered on this particular viewing.  Of course, it was a special treat to see them.  I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that she had her young out in the open in that area, as the big boar are known to go after and kill the young, but I guess that’s more so in the mating season.  I’m sure she knew what she was doing.

Sow with one of her spring cubs hiding behind her

Sow with one of her spring cubs hiding behind her

I mentioned earlier that these bears and Funnel Creek were in the Preserve boundaries, as opposed to the National Park.  See, in the preserve, contrary to how it sounds, they can actually be hunted during the bear hunting season.  I don’t mean to get all crazy about it, but it does drive me nuts because these bears are clearly not afraid of humans.  Doesn’t seem like a very fair hunting practice to me, but it does occur and it’s BIG business.  If you’re not aware of this practice, you can read up on it by googling it … if you’re like me, it will bring tears to your eyes.  I pray for their welfare and safety.

Probably the worst part of our trips to Katmai is the farewell.  Not much of a mature farewell for me … I literally go kicking and screaming!  But in my heart of hearts, I know that I will return, maybe not to the same exact location, but back nonetheless.  Who knows, these bears have such an incredible range in which they roam, perhaps we WILL meet again.  As the Beatles song goes … “I’ll Follow the Sun”, I’ll follow these Katmai bears and I know that they’ll follow the salmon!

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One more trip back to the Sadie Cove wilderness to drop off our new found friends …

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As soon as our plane dropped us back off in Homer, it took off to pick up the last of the workers and supplies out of McNeil River … when Tom realized our RV keys were on the plane’s seat.  Sweet one babe!  But alas, our guide Dave saved the day by taking us to Fat Olives for some yummy salad and pizza (the best ever), while we waited for our plane to return with our keys – hopefully.  It did return … they were on board … and life was good again!

For anyone that might be heading off to Katmai from Homer and needs a guide, I highly recommend Dave for “above & beyond the call of duty” service!  You can find out more on his website at http://www.goseebears.com.

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Until next year ….

NEXT:  The town of Homer