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The Last Frontier. Alaska in the middle of Winter is many things; uncompromising, dark, bitterly frigid and stunningly breathtaking.

Growing up in Northern Ohio I've experienced my fair share of lake effect snow over the years, but since moving to North Carolina I have grown to miss those winter wonderland days playing in the snowy landscape. Since beginning on this photography journey in 2020 I have yet to truly test the limitations of my gear and for that matter my own skillset in a particularly harsh climate. Alaska in January seemed to be the perfect opportunity to see if I had what it took to capture compelling images in spite of limited daylight, temperatures plummeting to -40F, and the general expansive remoteness that is Alaska.


Ice Caves & Glaciers

                             ultra wide-angle perspective of Castner Ice Cave                                                                                          unique ice "scales" in Castner Ice Cave

"Eye Of The Dragon" abstract of ice textures from the ceiling of Castner Ice Cave

This is one of my absolute favorite photos taken on the trip - It's an abstract detailing the unique shapes and colors of deeply frozen ice inside Castner Ice Cave in remote Eastern Alaska. I like to imagine the bright blue ice in the center is a dragon's eye looking to the right and the darker blue ice above serving as its furrowed brow. 

                             frozen ice crystals on the Matanuska Glacier                                                                              getting up close and personal with these massive walls of ice

          tour guide leading the way into the heart of the Matanuska Glacier.                                                                narrow ice crevasse leading to the Matanuska Glacier 

Touring the mighty Matanuska Glacier was a very humbling experience. The sheer scale of the ice walls alone can only fully be appreciated when standing directly next to them looking up (it was actually quite dizzying for me). This glacier is constantly shifting at the rate of 1 foot per day, and while all the ice caves were sealed off at the time of my visit, there were no lack of stunning ice formations to explore and photograph.

Photographing The Aurora

"25-324" abandoned bus blanketed in snow under the Northern Lights near Fox, Alaska

Photographing the Aurora has been near the top of my "photographer bucket list" for a few years now, and I finally got my first crack at it once I arrived in Fairbanks. There was an abandoned bus off the side of the road in a quarry near Fox, AK that I had spotted when scouting earlier that day, and I returned at 2 in the morning to venture back and hopefully snap  a unique photograph. No amount of jackets or hand warmers could have helped me with this one, truly the absolute  coldest experiences of my life... only lasted 10 minutes before I had to hightail it back to my truck.

   cozy Alaskan cabin backlit by the Aurora                          tall pines blanketed in snow under a green Aurora                                         Alaskan cabin covered in deep snow

Alaskan race dogs taking a breather after a frosty pull in North Pole, Alaska

army of frozen pine trees at dawn beneath a snowy mountain along AK-4

high wind while driving through Denali National Park stirring up snow creating near white-out conditions at times

The Road Less Travelled

                 frost covered trees along AK-1                                               bridge obscured by "ice fog" in Nenana, AK.                                       blowing snow in Denali National Park

              mountain foothills along AK-4                                                   Eastward view on AK-1 near Copperville                                              desolate winter road in Eastern Alaska    

Wether it was traveling through windswept Denali National Park or exploring the desolate byways of Eastern Alaska, there was simply not a bad photo to be taken along the endless empty roads. I was able to completely stop in the middle of the road on many occasions to get out and grab a few pictures of the mountains as there simply was nobody else around; pretty sure I went an hour at one point without seeing another traveller on the road.

Chasing Alpenglow

Western Denali Range illuminated with soft alpenglow light

 front doorstep of the mighty Denali

window seat overlooking the Denali Range just before sunrise

petrified forest beneath alpenglow sunset along scenic AK route 1

Golden Hour

                     sunstar through boreal forest in snowy Fairbanks, Alaska                                                             minimalist snowy landscape with sun on the horizon in Fairbanks

4 hours of daylight - that's about as much sunshine as Fairbanks sees on a typical clear day in Early January. Watching the sun finally rise at 11am and then set again at 3pm was a surreal experience; it's basically a photographers dream to have golden hour shooting conditions for essentially four hours straight. I spent the majority of the day hiking through a quiet boreal forest blanketed in fresh snow.

interesting curved Aspen trees blanketed in deep snow near Fairbanks, Alaska

making the walk back over the frozen Matanuska River

Alaskan bush pilot surveying the horizon over Denali National Park

                    "Black ice" boulder at Matanuska Glacier entrance                                                                      following tour guide through ice boulders on the Matanuska Glacier

Many of the Moose spotted throughout this trip were very camera-shy

Alaska challenged me as a photographer in more ways than I could have imagined. The freezing conditions pushed my gear and my body to its limits, not to mention the sheer logistical difficulties that went along with planning a solo trip of this magnitude. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I would visit this winter wonderland again in a heartbeat, and the sights / sounds experienced over those 8 days will last with me a lifetime.

If you are looking for a winter excursion of epic proportions then Alaska is your ticket!

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