Posted by: kerryl29 | November 10, 2021

The Story Behind the Image: The Photo that Almost Wasn’t

Apologies for taking so long to get a post up this week, but I’ve been busy. Among many other things, on Monday night (more accurately, about 1 AM Tuesday morning) I finally wrapped up the post-processing of images from Alaska. When the dust finally settled, more than 640 photographs from the trip had been processed. I’m not sure what my previous image record was for a photo trip, but it was far short of that total. I will begin chronicling the Alaska experience with a post next week.

Since I’ve invoked the spirit of Alaska, allow me to introduce to you one of the least likely images from the trip. Among the places we stayed–in this case, during the transition from the Brooks Range to the Denali Highway–was a bed-and-breakfast in Delta Junction, Alaska, about 95 miles southeast of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway. Delta Junction is in east-central Alaska, more than 330 miles north of Anchorage.

Despite this extremely cold-sounding location, the bed-and-breakfast we stayed at is called the Garden B&B, and it absolutely lives up to its name. We stayed there on the night of August 30, which is definitely into fall in that part of the world. But the garden at the appropriately named Garden B&B took our breath away. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible for anything like this to exist at such a latitude. We arrived there mid-afternoon of the day of our stay; the weather was very pleasant, with a high temperature of around 60 (F), mostly sunny and almost no wind.

Recognizing an unexpected opportunity right under our noses, we asked our hosts if we could photograph in the garden and we were encouraged to do so. So we spent an hour or two doing just that, as prelude to heading out on the Richardson Highway to look for more traditionally anticipated subjects (like the Alaska Range) when the light grew softer early that evening.

As a relevant side note, I like ferns. I’ve always been drawn to them when out with my camera, whether it’s in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, in the redwood forests of northern California, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, any one of a number of lush spots in Hawaii, the mountain forests of Colorado or elsewhere in Alaska.

But when I came across a nice batch of ferns on the Garden B&B property, I almost turned the opportunity aside. We’d been photographing flowers in the garden for some time at this point and we wanted to move on before long to explore photo opportunities down the Richardson Highway before we lost the light. Besides, I knew that I was looking at a deep photo stack of frames to obtain what I wanted with this cluster of ferns. Processing whatever I came up with was going to be a chore. And if there was even a breath of wind, the whole exercise–which would take a significant amount of time to execute, making the likelihood of the already stated breath of wind pretty likely–would amount to a waste of time. (Have you taken a close look at ferns? If someone sneezes in the adjacent county, they move.) Was it really worth the trouble?

Despite everything stated above, and for reasons I can’t recall, I decided that this was, indeed, worth the trouble. So I carefully set up the shot–composition and exposure settings, found the nearest object in the frame and established initial focus, got the focus stack settings established and carried out the procedure, hoping all along that nothing would move. I didn’t see anything move as the process was being executed and when I investigated the images in the stack on the camera’s LCD–all 28 (!) of them–I didn’t detect any movement, but it’s hard to be certain about it. If there was a problem, I’d have to find out when I tried to process the final stack on the computer.

A couple of months later, I did just that. Careful examination of the processed stack, combining all 28 frames, showed no movement at all. I converted the stacked image to black and white, as I had planned all along, to emphasize the textures and patterns of the subject matter.

In the end I was glad that I’d bothered.

Ferns Intimate Black & White, Delta Junction, Alaska


  1. Absolutely worth the effort! And if you hadn’t followed through, it would have nagged you as a potential missed opportunity. I really hate those. There are always a couple on every trip. Can’t wait to see your Alaska stories and images!

    • Thanks, Steve.

      I know what you mean about missed opportunities nagging you after the fact. For some (undoubtedly deep-seated psychological) reason, we tend to spend significantly more time wallowing in the opportunities missed that reveling in those that came to fruition.

  2. Very nice image! Image stacking comes in handy. I use it quite a lot!

    • Thanks!

      Agreed on focus stacking; I’ve been using this technique for about 15 years now, but it was always a manual procedure until this spring when I began using the Z7ii, the first camera I’ve owned that has an automatic focus stacking feature. Even though I’m on record as saying that it’s not optimized, the auto feature is still immeasurably better than producing the stacks manually.

  3. Love this image, Kerry – ferns are texture maniacs 🙂 Gardens in Alaska can be amazing – they get so much more sun during summer because of the northern exposure and can grow amazing flowers because of that. I hope you post some of your garden photos!

    • Thanks, Lynn. I just figured that the (very) short growing season that far north (seriously, only about a week before we showed up they’d already had measurable snow in Delta Junction) would negate anything that elaborate, but what you said makes sense: there’s so much daylight (not necessarily sun 🙂 ) during the summer that the pace of everything speeds up dramatically.

      I will definitely post some of the flower shots I produced during the garden shoot; I’m not sure I came up with anything particularly memorable, but it will be on display down the road.

  4. Incredible photo! Kudos.

    • Thanks very much!

  5. I have never done photo stacking-28 frames! -impressive!

    • Thanks, Jane. This is, by far, the most frames I’ve ever stacked for an image not produced with a macro lens. (The fern image was made with a 24-70 mm lens.) It’ll probably remain the all-time high for a good long while.

  6. […] We stayed in Fairbanks overnight and picked up our provisions for the trip north to Wiseman, in the heart of the Brooks Range, where we had spent several days with a photo guide (David W. Shaw; highly recommended) in 2018. This time, Ellen and I felt sufficiently confident–given that we now knew the lay of the land, the importance of keeping a full gas tank, how much food we’d need to bring and where some of the best photo opportunities were located–to make the trip back up to the Brooks Range on our own. (We did rent a satellite phone in Fairbanks.) We spent a day driving up to Wiseman, three full days in the Brooks Range, and another day driving back, again staying in Fairbanks. From there, we drove the Richardson Highway to Delta Junction, where we spent one night at the Garden B&B. […]

  7. Lovely image, I like the high contrast textures, well worth the effort. Greetings from the other side of the globe in Tasmania! We have lovely ferns here. Looking forward to your images of Alaska, following 🙂

    • Thanks very much!

      If I ever make it to Tasmania, I will be certain to seek out the ferns. 🙂

      • Trust me, it won’t be difficult 😀

        • I absolutely take your word for it. 🙂

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