As the month of September draws to a close and the transition to Autumn is in full swing, I find myself thinking back to the last several months of Summer and the extremely satisfying time I spent in wild places photographing the amazing beauty and life of our planet. Personally, wilderness and wild places have always been very important to my life and it is in such places that my senses are most alive and connected to world. Perhaps it was my childhood growing up in rural Pennsylvania , where my backyard and playground were the local woods, fields and streams, that pointed me down this path of life, but as I grow older I seem to cherish more and more the time I can spend in truly wild places. It is with a bit of sadness that I ponder the fact that so many people have never had the opportunity to experience wild places and thus do not really understand the complexities and inter-relationships of our environment and life on earth. Certainly one of the goals of my photography is to try to capture the essence and sense of place that makes up the environment of natural and wild places so that people who have no personal experience may come to appreciate the beauty of such areas and then may at least consider why preservation of the environment and wild places is so important.
This Summer I was able to make a trip and experience a small part of what I consider to be one our most amazing and important wilderness areas in the US, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. ANWR consist of over 19 million acres of incredible wilderness ranging from the stunning peaks and alpine environment of the Brooks Range to the amazing Arctic “prairie” of the arctic coastal plain and the shores of the Beufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean. I was lucky to experience a small part of it on two week river trip on the Canning River which we rafted for over 120 miles from the Brooks Range all the way to the Arctic Ocean . I have experienced a lot of wild areas but this trip was absolutely incredible, dare I say almost life changing. From fabulous alpine peaks and the absolutely crystal clear Marsh Fork to the vast sky and grasses of the arctic plain the entire trip was a visual delight and as a photographer, being able to work with the amazing quality of the ” midnight” low angle sun light was divine. In addition, the wildlife was incredible , particularly the large concentrations of nesting bird life on the arctic coastal plain. Having a close encounter with about 1000 caribou of the Central Arctic Herd crossing the river , some within 100 feet of us, was a sight I will never forget. Which brings me to the point of all this. There are some places on this earth that need to be preserved as they are and not developed on any scale, and ANWR is one of them. The threat of oil development on the Arctic Coastal plain in the Refuge is still very real, but we must resist. There is too much to loose for a few years supply of oil. I will leave you now with a few images. They are no substitute for experiencing ANWR in person but I hope at least they can convey some of the spirit of the place.
I’ve known how talented a photographer you are for a long time now, and I’m sitting here slack-jawed viewing these remarkable images with your poignant words. I’m certain that it was life-changing and very difficult to express the depth of the experience. You brought the place to life in a way that few can and make me want to do more. I can’t thank you enough for this.
Beautiful shots of the wilderness.