Alaskan Rainforest

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Few places in America have resonated with me as much as Alaska.

To me it is otherworldly, which is, perhaps, because I was born and raised in the flat scrub-filled swamps of northern Florida.  Still, the glaciers and fjords seemed so foreign to me when I first saw them.  This photograph was taken in Glacier Bay National Park, along the inside passage of Alaska.  Amongst the ice features that dominate the state, there is a temperate rainforest (as opposed to the tropical ones we are wont to think of).

The paths that cut through the forest were each uniquely beautiful, and I wish that I had truly hit my photographic stride when I was there.  Unfortunately, I have been there just once, and it was my inspiration to become a better photographer, rather than coming out party as a well-meaning, somewhat skilled amateur photographer, whose eye for photographs is punctuated by luck and somewhat more advanced post-processing skills.

Someday we will return, and I will be prepared.  I will bring my arsenal of lenses, but I hope that I give enough time to simply taking in the majesty of my surroundings.  It is easy for me to slink behind the lens and capture the beauty of nature without being engaged with it until days or weeks later when I can appreciate it through the photographs.  Still, they are a memento of the voyage to a place so unlike my home, and I treasure them.

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Glacier Bay

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This photograph was taken in Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska, just west of Juneau.  President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the area around Glacier Bay a national monument under the Antiquities Act on February 25, 1925. Subsequent to an expansion of the monument by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act enlarged the national monument by 817.2 square miles on December 2, 1980, and created Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

This is the Johns Hopkins Glacier, named in 1893 by H.F. Reid after the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, which sponsored an expedition to this glacier.  It is the only advancing tidewater glacier now (its advance started in 1924 when Grand Pacific Glacier started receding towards Tarr Inlet) and is combined with Gilman Glacier (first got attached to Hopkins in the 1990s, broke off and rejoined several times and once again it appears joined since 2000); both are advancing as one single ice block, and at the waterfront, has a width of 1 mile with a depth of 250 feet, rises to a height of 250 feet and stretches to about 12 miles  upstream.

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Path Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
-Robert Frost
These opening lines from Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” are familiar to most, as are the last two (I took the one less traveled by /and that has made all the difference), but the melancholy of the poem is seldom analyzed.  Frost wished that he could travel both paths at the same time, to be “one traveler” on both.  Frost’s poem is so relatable, both because of its simplicity and rhythmic overtones, and because we have all faced a fork in the road between one path and another.  Like Frost, we have had to make the difficult decision to trod down one path to the exclusion of the other, and like Frost, we wonder where our lives would have taken us had we ventured down the other path.
This photograph was taken in the forest surrounding Glacier Bay National Park in the southeast portion of the Inside Passage in Alaska.  I took it before I discovered my love for photography in earnest, but it has remained one of my favorite photographs.  As I have shared before, photographs of paths are a common and beloved subject of mine.  Like Frost, I am fascinated by those who have come before me–those who have “trodden the leaves black,” if you will.  I am likewise curious who will come after me, and whether they will see what I saw in the continuum of the path–its past, my present, and its future.  Perhaps this one will wash away, and a new one will be cut through the undergrowth in its place.  Perhaps it will fall out of favor, in lieu of a straighter, more direct path.  Perhaps someday a young poet will be faced with the choice between the two, and he will think of Frost like I did those years ago.

Perspective

Perspective

This photograph was taken in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.  Of all the waterfalls we saw, this was perhaps the most impressive.  Without the two people standing at its base, this would have been a great picture – a study in contrasts; but the two individuals lend such perspective to the grand scale of the waterfall that I could not, in good conscience, leave them out.  Perspective is a term that covers all manner of sins, from the linear perspective of Da Vinci, to the perspective one gains from a tragedy, to even the perspective that you grasp from the sheer insignificance of two humans set against the backdrop of indefatigable nature.

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River of Ice

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On the list of the most beautiful natural places I have ever been, Alaska ranks at the very top.  This glacier may have had a name, but so many others did not.  There were simply too many of them.  Beauty was within reach at every point on this trip, whether it was seeing the salmon in the rivers towards the end of their annual run, coming upon a group of ten bald eagles on the bank of a fjord, or paddling next to a huge river of ice that creeps along ever so slowly, carving mountains in its wake.  The force and the majesty of the state was almost overwhelming at times.  I could not capture it all, but this photograph is a stunning reminder of my trip there.  I cannot wait to go back with a renewed focus (and a better camera) to document the awe inspiring beauty of untouched nature.

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Wooded Ways

SSA Photography (16 of 400)

I have a fascination with taking photographs of paths, which is evident by my whole gallery of them.  This photo of a rainforest path was taken on a hike in Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska.

For me, paths evoke transience and the journey that we are all on.  In keeping with my spate of Latin-related posts, I was reminded of a quote by the Augustan-era poet Catullus, who understood this journey down the path of life well, and who often wrote about it in his Carmena.  In Carmen 46, Catullus bids farewell to his friends in Bithynia (a city in Asia Minor near Nicea) as he heads back home to Rome.  On leaving, he declares, “Farewell, sweet company of friends, who, having also wandered far from home, diverse paths carry back.”  (O dulces comitum valete coetus / longe quos simul a domo profectos / diversae varie viae reportant.)

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