Along the Alaska Railroad

Sometimes photos work better in black and white than in color.  This photo was taken somewhere along the Alaska Railroad during our trip from Denali to Anchorage.  The color version wasn’t very memorable.  The overcast sky and dark green of the foliage made monochromatic and, frankly, boring.

The black and white version is much better. Highlights in the sky above and the water below and the dark patches of black spruce give the photo a wide range of shades.  Also, I think the mountains are much more interesting in black and white.  I really like the contrasts between the snow and the exposed portions of the mountains.

Alaska Mountains

Yukon Territory, 2016

My wife and I were fortunate to be able to travel to the Yukon Territory in May 2016. The territory is beautiful. These two photographs were taken about five hours apart on the same day.  They show the wonderful variety of landscapes in the territory.

The first photo was taken along the Klondike Highway and shows the beautiful colors associated with the new growth of Spring.

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The second was taken from the return trip on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad and shows the snowy wilderness that most of us probably associate with the Yukon Territory.

View from Train 5

To put this in perspective, the distance from Skagway, Alaska, where our day started, to Carcross, YT, where we boarded the train for the return trip, is about 65 miles.  Within about five hours and sixty five miles we experienced these two landscapes.  The world is an interesting place.

Johns Hopkins Glacier, Alaska

Johns Hopkins Glacier is one of many glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  Named by geophysicist Harry Fielding Reid for his Alma-mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  While most of the glaciers in Glacier Bay are receding, Johns Hopkins is one of the few that is advancing and actively calving.

Interestingly, climate change has a strange effect in Glacier Bay.  We’re used to thinking of rising water levels associated with the melting of the ice caps, but in Glacier Bay the land is actually rising.  This is because as the glaciers recede, the weight of the ice that has been pushing down lessens and the earth, like a sponge, is springing back and rising slightly.

Glacier Bay is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit.  It’s  rugged landscapes are stunning.  The bay is protected by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Johns Hopkins 12 (4)

 

Denali National Park, Alaska

We were fortunate to be able to visit Denali National Park in May 2016.  Although we didn’t know it at the time, May is probably the best time to visit the park.  Around the beginning of June, the plants leaf out and it’s much harder to spot the amazing wildlife.  I also like the incredible colors you see before everything greens up.

This is a photo of Polychrome Pass which, to me, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.  It’s rugged and ancient and epitomizes the term “wilderness.”

Polychrome Pass C

Everything is just beginning to green up, giving just a bit of color to an otherwise monochromatic scene.  You see one of the many braided rivers that crisscross Alaska and the row after row of mountains are evidence of how, over millions of years, the land has shifted and pushed the land skyward.

I was fascinated by the landscape and, even today, I love looking at the photograph.

Spiny Lobster, NC Aquarium

This interesting fellow is a spiny lobster.  He’s probably the largest lobster I’ve ever seen.

There are a couple things that set a spiny lobster apart from true lobsters.  First, they spiny lobsters have very long antennae- this lobster’s antennae were probably two feet across.  The antennae are sometimes used as a defense.  The lobster rubs the antennae against a hard surface to create a rasping sound which apparently sounds like Air Supply because the predators can’t stand the sound.

Another difference between spiny lobsters and true lobsters is that spiny lobsters don’t have the large claws associated with true lobsters.  In fact, they don’t usually have claws at all.  Despite not having the large, and tasty, claws associated with true lobsters, spiny lobsters are still a popular food source.  The spiny lobster industry in Vietnam is a major source of revenue and spiny lobster are the largest food export of the Bahamas.

Lobster

Moray Eel, NC Aquarium

We recently paid a visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  It’s a nice aquarium with a focus on animals that inhabit the North Carolina coastal region but they do have a few non-native species.

This photo is of a moray eel doing what moray eels do- lying in wait to ambush a passing fish.  Morays have very small eyes and cannot see well, so they depend on their sense of smell to tell them when a potential meal is approaching.

One interesting thing about moray eels is they sometimes team with roving coral groupers to help them hunt.  The eels can flush small prey from niches and crevices where the larger groupers can’t go.

Moray Eel

Dogwood blooms

Dogwoods are among the first things to celebrate the arrival of Spring.  Farmers believed that it wasn’t safe to plant their crops until the dogwoods bloomed, so they welcomed the sight of the beautiful white flowers each year.

There’s an old Christian tale that the cross that Jesus was crucified on was made of dogwood.  At the time the dogwood was one of the largest and strongest trees around Jerusalem.  After Jesus’s crucifixion,  God changed the dogwood to a smaller tree with twisted branches to ensure that the wood could never be used to make crosses again.  The four petals of the blooms signify the cross and the rust colored indentation on each petal represent the indentation of the nails that held Jesus to the cross.

I’m not particularly religious but I think that we can all agree that the dogwood blooms are a welcome indication that the cold days of Winter have come to an end.

Dogwood

Foggy Morning

Springtime weather changes sometimes bring foggy mornings.  The dog and I love our early morning walks and a fog adds to the peace and beauty of the land.  Since we live in the country we don’t have the noise associated with the hustle and bustle of urban areas.  So we take our time and enjoy the quiet beauty of the nature around us.

Foggy Barn

Spring Cherry Tree

When we moved to North Carolina twenty three years ago, there were three young Yoshino cherry trees in the yard.  We lost one early on in a Summer thunderstorm.  The two surviving trees have grown to around 25 feet tall and every Spring they give us a few days of beautiful blooms.

This year we weren’t sure they had survived the Winter.  We were quite surprised and pleased when they bloomed.   A few days after the trees bloom, they begin to leaf out.  This is when I love them most.  The combination of the pink blooms and the new green leaves are lovely.

An interesting aspect of the blooming trees is they seem to buzz.  If you sit or stand under the tree at this time of year, you’ll hear a quiet buzzing coming from the hundreds of bees who visit the blooms.  And, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a few dozen monarch butterflies as well.

This photo was taken while sitting on the porch and enjoying a late afternoon beverage.  I love the way the sunlight filters through the top of the tree.  Life is good.

Cherry Tree

World Wildlife Day, 2019

Since 2013, March 3rd has been recognized as World Wildlife Day by United Nations Member States, to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s animal and plant life.  Each year’s celebration has a theme.  The theme for 2019 is “Life below water: for people and planet”.

This photo of Steller’s Sea Lions was taken in Stephens Passage, outside Juneau, Alaska.  To give you a bit of perspective, Steller’s Sea Lions are the largest sea lion and the third largest piniped (behind the walrus and the sea elephant).  Male Steller’s Sea Lions can reach weights of  nearly 2,500 pounds, nearly three times the size of a female.  It’s a pretty safe bet that all the sea lions on this buoy are female.

Traditionally, the population of Steller’s Sea Lions has been divided into two stocks, eastern and western, with the eastern stock, including the sea lions shown here, inhabiting the western coast of North America, ranging from the Gulf of Alaska south to central California.

The eastern stock of Steller’s sea lion is classified as “near threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  The western stock is listed as “endangered” due to a steadily declining population, possibly due to commercial over-fishing, which has reduced the sea lion’s natural food supply, both in quantity and in quality.

Stellar Sea Lions