Posted by: kerryl29 | January 3, 2022

Alaska Revisited, Day 4: The Brooks Range, Continued

Day 4 of the Alaska trip (part II) was spent covering a good chunk of the Dalton Highway both north and south of our base in Wiseman. We got some very nice morning mist and a partly cloudy day (with relatively light wind) thereafter and we tried our hardest to make the most of the conditions.

There was too much low-hanging cloud cover at daybreak for a sunrise, but as the fog started to lift–still early in the morning–we were treated to some interesting elements. My first shot of the day came during a stop along the highway where we were investigating a wetland area that we’d scouted the day before. With the fog still burning off, the rising moon played peek-a-boo with the clouds. See if you can spot it in the image below.

Morning Moonrise, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

That wetland area proved to be quite fruitful and we spent quite a bit of time working the location, which was just off the east side of the highway.

Mountain Reflections, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Note the mountain peak emerging from the thick layer of background fog.

Morning Mist, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska
Morning Mist, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

I snapped a candid shot of Ellen, as she sized up the location.

Ellen Photographs Mountain Reflections, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

I also did some more offbeat work at this spot:

Reflections Black & White, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska
Reflection Impressions Black & White, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Other opportunities along the way beckoned before the mist lifted completely.

Misty Autumn, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska
Spruce & Tundra, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska
Misty Autumn, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Our next stop was only a couple of miles up the road, at a colorful location.

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska
Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

We continued along until we reached Sukakpak Mountain and stopped to photograph it from a couple of vantage points.

Sukakpak Mountain, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska
Sukakpak Mountain, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

When we drove around to the north side of Sukakpak, astride Dillon Mountain, we reached an officially unnamed lake–one we took to referring to as Moose & Loon Lake (because we’d seen a moose there three years earlier and saw loons there this time):

Loons, Moose & Loon Lake, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

We’d discovered that this was a good spot from which to photograph on the previous trip and, though the light wasn’t exactly the best by this time of the (late) morning, we chose to give it another try.

Dillon Mountain, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Clouds started to roll in while we were at Moose & Loon Lake–it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the weather can change in these environs–and pretty soon mixed lighting was the order of the day. You can see it to some extent with the shadow line on Dillon Mountain in the above image. But without the mixed lighting I doubt I ever would have made the image that follows. It’s a fairly unorthodox composition that I teased out when we made another stop, further to the north and about 1000 feet away from the edge of Moose & Loon Lake. We had stopped merely to scout this area, not even taking our gear out of the car, but I kept looking at this scene and finally, when the sun ducked behind the edge of a cloud bank, it kind of came together for me and I marked my spot and hustled back to pull out my camera and tripod.

Dillon Mountain, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

It was getting cloudier and cloudier when we moved further north on the highway and stopped at a pull-out along the edge of the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River.

Middle Fork Koyukuk River Black & White, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

The sun was still out, but a dark cloud bank was rolling in from the northwest and, in fact, it started to rain while these two images–which I converted to black and white–were being made. Doing so required perching on a not-entirely-stable pile of boulders, which became quite slick when dampened by the rain. We were able to extract ourselves from the spot without incident, fortunately.

Middle Fork Koyukuk River Black & White, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

As quickly as the dark clouds had rolled in, they rolled out and we were back to partly cloudy–and now quite windy–conditions. We decided to spend some time exploring a quarry on the west side of the Dalton Highway, and ended up being glad we did.

Down at ground level our view of the mountains to the west was blocked but I climbed–without my gear, because it was a bit of dicey climb–up a fairly large boulder pile. I really liked the view up there and told Ellen it was very nice, but that the climb up–and down–was going to be a bit tricky. But we made the decision to try to make it up with at least some gear (which required me to descend and then climb back up) and, with a few false starts, we were able to complete the task–both going up and down, and figuring out how to set up our tripods and make some images as well.

Autumn Afternoon, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

I think, in the end, we were both quite happy that we’d tackled the boulder pile, which makes an appearance in the foreground below.

Autumn Afternoon, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

And, there were a few other photo ops at this location just waiting for me to descend from the rock pile a final time.

Backlit Fireweed, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

We spent most of the rest of the late afternoon and early evening scouting along a broad swath of the Dalton Highway, but as sunset approached the wind died down and we decided to return to a spot we’d scouted the previous day, just a bit north of Moose & Loon Lake near an extended pipeline pullout. The color in this area was spectacular, with Dillon Mountain as the backdrop. We’d taken a good look at this location on the drive back from Atigun Pass a couple of days earlier and thought it might work if the conditions were right. Well, the conditions were right and we hastened to take advantage of the situation.

On the way, we stopped at the same location that had yielded the views of Sukakpak Mountain earlier in the day. The light was much nicer this time around.

Sukakapak Mountain Evening, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

We made our way to the designated spot and wandered down the pipeline access road to where we thought the best vantage point lay. The highway was between us and Dillon Mountain but by getting low we could hide the roadbed entirely.

Dillon Mountain at Sunset, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

The light was excellent and getting better by the minute. The wind had dropped to next to nothing. The only issue was that the temperature had dropped as well and it was quite nippy, but the lack of wind helped, and we watched the shadow line of the mountain range to the west creep up the face of Dillon Mountain. Clouds, turning pink in the angular light, drifted by. It was a memorable, extended moment.

Dillon Mountain at Sunset, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

I moved around a bit, changing foreground elements and slightly altering the perspective on the background. Eventually, only a bit of Dillon Mountain caught the remaining rays of the sun.

Dillon Mountain at Sunset, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

I made a couple of quick final images, close-ups, as it turned out, of some of the interesting grasses at our feet. The mostly colorless scene best revealed its details and patterns in a monochrome presentation.

Patterns Black & White, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

When we finally wrapped up were chilled to the bone and it was nice to be able to retreat to the shelter of the car and turn up the heat.

We had one more full day in the Brooks Range on tap tomorrow and we’d try to make the most of it…


Responses

  1. Kerry,
    I’m continuing to enjoy your Alaskan adventure vicariously. In this post, I especially liked the two reflections, the “unorthodox” comp, and the Middle Fork Koyukuk vertical. Thanks again for sharing your trip!
    Steve

    • Thanks, Steve!

  2. Beautiful scenery and images, Kerry!

    • Thanks very much, Toni!

  3. […] Alaska Revisited, Day 4: The Brooks Range, Continued — Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog […]

  4. Stunning pictures

  5. The range of color seems so different there, Kerry – did you find that to be true when you were shooting? Also, the spire like shapes of the trees is quite a feature that lends a different element to so many of these scenes, echoed by the portrait of the fireweed. A beautiful and complex set of images that I found compelling.

    • Thanks, Lynn.

      Colors…the palette reminded me a bit of the North Woods, though the vegetation is very different (obviously). There’s really nothing quite like the tundra when it turns in the fall and, outside of logistics, my two trips to Alaska have left me rather puzzled that I never hear anyone describing this area as one of the great fall color locations in North America.

      There will be many, many more images illustrating this point before the series concludes, but if you have some time and want some additional examples without the accompanying text, you might want to go here:

      https://www.lightscapesphotography.com/f550182223

      or here:

      https://www.lightscapesphotography.com/f686061269

      …and poke your nose beyond the gallery thumbnails. There are many, many images within that pay testament to the remarkable color that accompanies the Alaskan autumn.

      I completely agree with your very astute observation about the shape of the spruce trees and their accent to the landscape. This element is even more pronounced, I think, in much of the imagery that was made along the Denali Highway and in Denali National Park, but it’s also definitely in evidence in the Brooks Range work as well. Very good eye on your part to catch this.

  6. Very interesting photos of the Dalton Highway!!

  7. […] with little or no wind, would be optimal, but what we got in the morning was essentially a rerun of Day 4: some low-hanging mist with sun bleeding through. As a result, we made our way up the Dalton […]

  8. […] Our next stop was astride the bridge where the highway crossed the South Fork of the Koyukuk River. We had scouted this location a bit during our explorations on Day 4. […]

  9. […] The entire trip included 17 days in the field. We only planned on visiting four broad locations (the Brooks Range; the Denali Highway; Denali National Park; and Hatcher Pass). While all of these locations are […]


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