Monthly Archives: January 2008


The Raven 2

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I’ve been asked to photograph ravens for a client who wants to market those prints to tourists this summer. I thought: “well, what could be easier”? There are several spots in Juneau where I see them consistently. They come close when food is in sight, and often end up in comical situations, begging to be photographed.  So I got my longest telephoto lens out, which is a 112 – 220 mm (35-mm equivalent). Not necessarily a long telephoto, but given how close they approach people, I figured that should be more than enough.

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The sun was lazily rising up, trying to break though a grey cloud cover. I got to one of their hang-out locations where a number of younger ravens were making a commotion on the ground. Perfect! Standing across the street, I pulled out my camera. As if a gun went off, the ravens scattered in an instance. Some flew up into tree branches and on building roofs, just far enough to become black dots in the viewfinder. I patiently waited for them to resume their business, remaining motionless as far as the chilly weather allowed, but to no avail. The birds curiously looked down on me, from the heights of their perches, vocalizing and changing positions, but remaining unreachable by my lens.

After an hour of trying, I went for a cup of mocha and a muffin at the Valentine’s cafe. Their cranberry muffins looked especially good, so I bought a second one in case the ravens would share my taste in pastries. For $2.50 a muffin, one muffin was all they were getting. When I threw pieces of it on the ground, a black cloud of ravens descended  at once. It worked! I was about to raise my camera, when the black cloud was overcome and displaced by a molted-white cloud of gulls. The gulls swallowed every single piece of the muffin at once, and proceeded to leave me without a doubt that they wanted more. They were very demanding, following me at an arms-reach, like a flock of ducklets. The ravens flew back to their perches and silently watched from above.

The next day, I went to a local supermarket and bought several one-dollar muffins. The gulls weren’t there, so I threw pieces of muffins on the ground. A couple of ravens made a low-flying pass over the muffins but decided against landing. The rest of them remained motionless on trees and roofs. Apparently, a generic breed of muffins from a local grocery store was not up to their standard. Only when I hid around the corner of a building did they land for a tasting, and at my first appearance quickly scattered, refusing to land again, no matter how far I walked away. I was against a worthy opponent!

***

It’s been several weeks and many a number of tries to get interesting, captivating photos of the raven. I am slowly figuring out how to get their photos with my shorter telephoto, but for one, I have just received a new telephoto lens – 160 to 640mm (35-mm equivalent). That should certainly help me get shots of the older birds, who are too cautious to come close. And I’ve learned a few tricks that help me get the shot I want – it seems, for the most part, being mostly about hiding my camera while taking photos.

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For more photos of ravens, see the Photo Archive .


“Early retirement” 1

View from Mt. Ben Stewart

I have to say – I love my “early retirement” – at least while it lasts. I get up whenever I want – usually around 5 or 6 am and do what I want – which is, weather-dependent, usually shooting in the mornings and evenings and working on my photos at home or looking for opportunities to market them in between. No cubicle from 8 to 5, no bosses.

The East Bowl

I’ve been snow-shoeing with a friend around the Eaglecrest Mountain – Mount Ben Steward ridge area, over on Douglas in Juneau, Alaska. It’s interesting being on a mountain in the winter without skis, not being able to whoosh down fast at will. But this mode of transportation has its advantages – I can go up slowly and stop often to enjoy the scenery and the night and early-morning sky. Without the skis, I don’t feel hurried to get to the top quickly and ski down while there is still plenty of virgin powder.

Skiing on Eaglecrest

Skiing on Eaglecrest

It’s intriguing how easy it is to strike up conversations with skiers on the slope while snow-shoeing. Some wonder why we are going in the opposite direction of the general traffic, why we are not on the chair-lift, where our skis are. Ski patrol stops to see if we are alright. And so on. When I ski, I usually end up talking only during the chair-lift ride, or in the line to it. Otherwise, I prefer it to be a rather solitary experience, to get down to earth, so to speak, at least as far as the snow depth allows.

Digging in

But I digress. After snow-showing up to the top,  with kind assistance of poles or an ice axe, there is nothing better than a hot cup of tea or cocoa, courtesy of the Whisper-Lite stove we take with us. But before we can get a pot of snow going, first things first. We dig in, until a circular trench in the snow is made, tall enough to hide us from wind and wide enough for us and the stove. Now, while the snow is undergoing all three physical form-changes to accommodate us with a hot drink, we pull out bars of dark chocolate and munch on them for lunch. It’s quite and tranquil around. No people, no sounds, just the breeze singing in the trees as it travels from Canada or the ocean, navigating through channels and mountain-tops. That’s ecstasy, 6th heaven.

As the sun slowly rolls over the peaks of the Admiralty Island, threatening to disappear in between one of them, we pack up and begin our journey down. A slow descent, as our legs are tired, but still so much faster than the climb up. With the last rays of sun igniting mountain-tops for the last time and long grotesque shadows bridging trees, we reach the car.

East Bowl