# of Kids:
Hello! I am a full-time stock and assignment photographer living in Anchorage, Alaska. I have a lovely wife, Lisa, and two beautiful children. My son, Jack, will soon be eight and my daughter, Claire, will soon be four.
We have just recently returned to Alaska from an eight year stint in California. Lisa and I had previously spent a year in the Yup'ik village of Eek and two years in Anchorage. After moving back to CA I couldn't get Alaska out of my mind. I started coming back up in the summers and finally realized this is where I wanted to be! I feel so lucky to be back in a place that never ceases to inspire me and to be able to work in a profession I love .
I am a member of the Alaska chapter of ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers). You can review a recent presentation at: http://www.asmpalaska.org/Programs/2007Feb/index.html or you can visit my website at: www.waydecarrollphotography.com
Thanks for visiting! - Wayde
Monday, October 29, 2007, 2:01 AM
with Wayde Carroll
Alaska is painfully beautiful at any time of year and the urge to get out my camera can strike at any time, but there is something magical about the winter. Once the temperatures drop and the snow takes hold for the season, everything about the land transforms. Not only is it dressed in form-fitting whiteness but it is quiet, slow. Creeks, rivers, and falls are still, except for possibly a faint trickling heard far below their frozen crusts. The animals out and about are fewer. One can easily escape to areas where no one has seemed to tread, at least not since the last snowfall.
Alaska becomes the stereotype that forms in the minds of those who have never been here. White, jagged, mountain ranges. A steamy exhalation from a bull moose in the yard. Ice forming on the face of any who brave any form of physical activity outside.
Unique weather phenomena are plentiful as well. On the same day you can wake up to a magical world covered in hoarfrost, encounter several sundogs, and witness a full display of the Aurora Borealis! A photographer’s paradise indeed!
That said, winter also holds many challenges for the photographer. With the season almost upon us, I thought I’d throw out some tips I’ve learned through experience and fellow photographers.
Most guidebooks tell you to always travel with a “buddy” just in case an emergency situation arises. This is great advice and should be heeded whenever possible but it can be difficult to find someone to hang out with every time you want to take photos. So, what I do is the following:
- Always you make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you’ll return.
- Pack the car with all items necessary to survive an overnight in sub-zero temperatures. If you head out for the day thinking you’ll be back for dinner and your battery dies, or a storm sets in…This includes extra dry clothes, fire starter, sub-zero rated sleeping bag, cell phone, extra food, water, stove, etc.. There are several books that give detailed lists for winter travel, weather it be backcountry skiing or just sticking to the roadway. It’s better to be over prepared than not.
Here are some tips for photographing in the cold:
- I have covered my tripod legs with foam PVC tube lining to keep my hands from contacting the freezing aluminum.
- I wear a heavy-duty winter glove when scouting around but have a thin glove on underneath. When it comes time to fiddle with my camera and lenses I take off the heavy gloves and can maneuver without fear of sticking to my camera.
- I always bring hand and feet warming packets just in case.
- I wear the recommended layers of clothing so I can cool off or heat up as I need. Nothing is worse than being wet from sweat and then having your clothes freeze up when you’re stationary.
- I bring several charged battery packs. I keep the unused packs next to my body to keep them warm and interchange them with the in-camera batteries that inevitably lose power in temps around zero and below.
- I have a waterproof camera cover I carry in case of precipitation.
- Once your camera is exposed to the cold it’s best to keep it out. If you jump in to a warm car to move to your next location it is good to place your camera into a zip-lock bag so that the condensation builds up on the outside of the bag instead of on your camera and its’ sensitive components. In a pinch I’ve wrapped up my camera in my coat with no problems-so far.
- I like to wear my contact lenses instead of my glasses in winter because my breath always seems to fog up the glasses as I’m trying to compose in the viewfinder!
- I keep my water in an inside layer as well to prevent freezing.
- Because there I’m surrounded by so much whiteness I keep a close eye on my exposure and histogram. Typically it is good to open up-or over expose- your scene by one to one and a half stops. Because your camera meter is trying to make everything a middle grey tone this ensures your whites will be white.
- Most importantly, never go too far out of your comfort zone. If a situation seems too tricky or dangerous, it probably is. Don’t do it. Don’t cross that river unless you know it’s frozen solid.
- I always check the U.S. forest service web site (http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/chugach/glacier/advisory.html ) to see if there are any avalanche probability updates in the area I’m heading to.
- I always bring along a thermos full of Java!
I hope this helps out. Have a great time capturing images this winter. Be prepared and be safe.
Saturday, October 20, 2007, 2:54 AM
Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park, Wrangell Island.
with Wayde Carroll
This week’s photo is a special one for me. Not only because I really like it but because I pictured the image I wanted to take in my head before ever arriving at the location.
While I was researching locations for a two and a half week long stock shooting trip in southeast Alaska I discovered that there was a beach on Wrangell Island, Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park, where you could still find 3,000 to 10, 000 thousand year old rock carvings just laying around out in the open! I thought this was so cool. It’s amazing to me that you can still find historical artifacts that haven’t been destroyed or defaced in a public location. It became a high priority on my trip.
While making all my other preparations for the trip I kept thinking of the petroglyphs. Would I find one? Would I be lucky and have nice light for a great image? I had searched the internet and found a few great images by other photographers and I knew it would be a challenge to come up with something a little different.
I really wanted to make the stone carvings stand out from their surroundings and I wanted the image(s) to evoke a mood, one of a different time, primordial. Dusk is a time that conjures up images of mystery so I knew that was the time I wanted. To make the carvings stand out I decided to try and use some off camera flash at an angle that would add definition to the grooves in the stone. I also knew that I wanted to use a wide angle up close to emphasize them more and to include the pristine Alaskan surroundings.
I arrived, by ferry, in Wrangell about two hours before dusk, dropped my backpack off at the hostel, and headed straight for Petroglypgh Beach. I hustled the mile there and was just thrilled to find that it was even better than I’d hoped for. There wasn’t another person around and I was able to find several carvings fairly quick. I chose my favorite location, set up my tripod and waited for the sun to dip below the horizon. There were clouds and a slight drizzle but the mountains across the Zimovia Straights were visible. I opened the small umbrella I carry to cover my camera, and my self. The location was just magnificent and I had no trouble silently watching and imagining what life could have been like here when the Tlingets and Tsimshian ruled these islands.
When the time came the rain had stopped and I tried several different compositions, horizontal and vertical. I included myself in some as well to add perspective. In each, I underexposed the ambient light by about one stop and fired my hand held flash five or six times from various locations and angles to make the artwork and surrounding rocks stand out. I did this by attaching a transmitter to my cameras’ flash mount that would fire my flash from a distance. I also had a remote trigger that would release the cameras’ shutter from up to fifty feet away. Therefore, I could hold my flash where I wanted and then take an exposure with the remote. Because the camera was secured on a tripod I was able to later combine several exposures in Photoshop and get the lighting effect I wanted.
I know many of the great outdoor photographer’s, such as Galen Rowell and Frans Lanting, have achieved such amazing results because of this kind of planning. This was the first time that I put their technique to work. It was very satisfying to actually pull it off! This “previsualizing” may become a habit.
Saturday, October 13, 2007, 2:53 AM
with Wayde Carroll
Because more people are now shooting digitally rather than with film, and because I shoot with digital SLR’s, I thought I’d bring up the ever present, largely ignored histogram.
Most people tend to take an image, make sure it appears ok on their LCD and then move on to the next image. It’s great to be able to see that you’re exposure is close with just a glance at the back of your camera but what you see on the LCD monitor isn’t always an accurate way to judge your exposure.
The brightness of your LCD may be off from what you actually see on your computer monitor. Some perfectly exposed images appear too bright or too dark on the cameras’ monitor. Also, the surrounding ambient light can effect how you see the LCD image. If you are shooting outside on a bright, sunny, day it can be very hard to see the image on your screen and therefore it appears too dark. If you are shooting at night or in deep shadow the image can appear brighter than normal in comparison to your surroundings. To add to the mix, the brightness of your LCD image can vary with a slight tilt of your camera. You need to be looking at it straight on.
Some of you may ask “Why does any of this matter when you can just fix it in Photoshop?”
Well, while it is true that you can easily make corrections in Photoshop and other photo editing software programs, there are reasons why achieving an optimal exposure is still desirable.
If my exposures are spot on to begin with, it will save me valuable time in the post-processing phase of my workflow. Digital files usually need some slight tweaking, weather it’s a bit of sharpening, contrast adjustment, or color saturation etc., so why add an extra step to the process?
Also, if my image is overexposed or underexposed there is often times unwanted contrast and color degradation after the exposure is brought in line. These problems can often be dealt with as well but at a much higher cost time-wise.
This brings me, finally, to our subject: histograms.
Most digital cameras today come with a feature that will display a histogram on their image-viewing screen. If it does not come up automatically, check out your manual and you should be able to call it up. A histogram is a graph which shows you the tonal range captured in your image.
What’s important to remember is that the shape of your histogram doesn’t matter, it’s the placement on the graph that we are concerned with.
As you look at the histogram the dark tones are represented on the far left, the mid-tones in the middle, and the highlights are shown on the far right. What you want to do is check your histogram after an exposure and make sure the tonal range matches the scene before you. If you are shooting at night (see image #1) your histogram will be show most of the data on the left side. If there are some highlights etc you will still see them represented as a smaller amount of data on the far right side. If you are shooting a very bright or high key image (see image #2) your data will be heavy on the right side of your graph. Therefore any mid-tone image (see image #3) will have a nice distribution all the way across your histogram.
You still need to be careful within these guidelines as well. If you are shooting the night scene and your histogram is showing all the data going off the left side of your graph you need to be wary. All of your data should be contained within the graph if you expect to hold detail. With the night exposure you should be able to see where the data on the left just ends before going off the screen and some will be in the mid-range and highlight area. If you have no data on the right you are underexposed and will lose detail in the shadows. The converse is true for the high key image. If you have no data on the left then you are overexposed and will lose detail in your highlights. Most cameras have little flashing dots that appear when you have areas that may be losing detail. Use them as an additional tool to help notice discrepancies with your exposures.
With proper exposures you will save time, headache, and produce higher quality prints. Good luck!
Friday, October 5, 2007, 12:39 AM
The other day I was talking with a friend of mine about his recent trip up to Denali National Park. Now, this person isn't a "professional photographer" but has always enjoyed taking photos. So I asked him if he was excited about any of the images he took on his trip and his reply sort of stunned me and made me think.
My friend replied that he didn't bother taking any photos. "Why bother lugging my gear around a national park when I can buy the postcard? It's not like you can take a photo that hasn't already been taken a thousand times before. I rarely break out my camera in the popular areas."
I thought about it for a bit and decided that my friend was off base for several reasons.
First of all, I truly believe that every person looks at things a little differently than the next. I was in Denali national Park as well this summer with a group of photographers and I distinctly remember getting a big kick out of watching each person approach the same area in a different way.
Ten of us arrived at the northern end of Wonder Lake and there were ten different approaches to photography.
A few people wandered up to the top of blueberry hill. One focused on photographing her companions as they hiked, one focused on lichens in the tundra, and the other was photographing the changing cloud patterns.
Down below, people were photographing close ups of canoes, mushrooms, reflections in the lake. One was trying to capture birds.
Secondly, I feel that nature has an endless array of tricks up her sleeve. In the past, I too have had moments of feeling like one scene or another is just same-old, same-old, then a moose bursts through the trees, splashes across the pond and disappears into the woods again, or a ray of sunshine bursts through the overcast sky to highlight a lone peak. Then, again, I am reminded of the endless possibilities that exist and my faith is renewed.
Lastly, I get enormous pleasure in having a photo that I took, in a place that thrills me. I don't care if it does end up looking similar to other images. I, Wayde Carroll, was lucky enough to have seen such a beautiful sight and the photo I took serves as a reminder of the slight wind that blew that day, the slog through the brush-soaking my pants- to get to that spot, the clouds that appeared just minutes later making the just photographed scene disappear for days.
I think it is an exciting challenge to keep taking images, even in the most popular of places. If anything, the glut of standard images serves to motivate photographers to keep stretching their craft, keep seeing from a different perspective. So for goodness sakes, don't leave your camera at home and don't be afraid to take that photo everyone has taken. Odds are it really is a little different.
I've included several images from my Denali trip this summer. They are all of Mt. McKinley but look how different they are.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 5:23 PM
with Wayde Carroll
Cruising Kenai Fjords National Park
I was lucky enough to recently lead a group of photographers on a chartered cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. I thought I’d share some tips that may come in handy should you decide to take a tour before winter sets in.
Be prepared for any weather situation. It can be cold and rainy or it could be mild and sunny. We were blessed with a mixture of sunshine and overcast and just a slight bit of rain. Having a waterproof jacket or shell is a must and you wont regret having a warm hat and gloves. Your camera can get pretty cold out there so having a layer on your hands can make all the difference.
Speaking of your camera, I would recommend buying a waterproof camera cover in case of rain or spray coming off the bow of the boat. There are several companies, such as Pelican and Aquatech Sports Shield, that make covers specifically for your camera model. I’ve even gotten away with a large ziplock bag to shove my camera in when needed.
As far as gear goes, I mostly used a 24mm to 70mm and a 70mm to 300mm. There are many wildlife opportunities but many of the animals, such as the puffins and sea otters are relatively small so the closer you can get the better. I would strongly recommend lenses, or camera bodies, with image stabilization so you can maximize your chances of getting a clear image. A lens hood helps keep unwanted water droplets off your lens but in some cases I still put a uv filter on to protect it. It’s better for you to be wiping spray from the filter than from the lens!
I also found that a polarizing filter came in handy. I was able to take some of the glare off of wet surfaces and ad some punch to the sky.
While shooting from the boat it helps to lean against the railings and have both feet planted firmly so that you make a sort of tripod with your body. Keep an eye on your shutter speed as well to make sure that it is fast enough to prevent blur in your images. For you digital shooters it’s a huge benefit to be able to zoom in on your images and check sharpness.
As a digital photographer myself I also find it very useful to be able to adjust my ISO (film speed) rating to match the situation as well as being able to change my white balance as the weather shifts. When the sun is out I shoot in “daylight” balance and when the clouds arrive I switch over to “cloudy” balance! Pretty fancy!
I prefer to shoot in RAW as well so that I can tweak the color temperature later if I want.
Make sure you have plenty of water and snacks and bring some sunglasses and sun block- you never know- and always bring more film, or storage, than you think you’ll need. You don’t want to be down to your last few images at the end of the day when suddenly that pod of killer whales appears out of nowhere!
The Kenai Fjords are truly incredible and worth your while. Take the time, and your camera, and check them out!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 2:02 PM
with Wayde Carroll
Tripod, Tripod, Tripod!
These three images were taken along the Inside Passage in southeast Alaska but they have something else in common as well. Dare to take a guess? (Hint: See this weeks’ blog heading!) That’s right! They were all taken with my camera mounted on a tripod.
If there is one piece of advice I’d give an aspiring photographer it would be “take your tripod”.
By making the effort to lug the extra weight around you are setting yourself up for better photo taking opportunities. The reasons for this are many. The photos here illustrate several of them.
In Image #1 it was a dark day on Mitkof Island, heavy rain clouds filled the sky. I didn’t have days to spend on the island hoping for perfect weather but I loved this scene.
By using a tripod I was able to use a longer exposure than I would have been able to if I was hand holding the camera. Therefore I was also able to use a small aperture to achieve a greater range of focus (depth of field) and use a slower ISO of 100 to minimize the image noise. Having the camera mounted also left my hands free to hold an off camera flash that I used to make the foreground rocks and grasses “pop” out of the dark surroundings. This image was taken with an aperture of F16 and a shutter speed of 1/25 of a second.
In Image #2 I was on the Rainbow Falls Trail in the dark recesses of the Tongass National Forest. Again, I needed the tripod to allow for a slower shutter speed and greater depth of field. I also wanted to have a human element in the photo to provide some perspective. Unfortunately I was the only model available, but with the camera on the tripod I was able to provide the perspective I was seeking. I used a wireless trigger to make the exposure. This image was 1/5” at F18 at ISO 200.
Image #3 is of the lower portion of Rainbow Falls not far from where Image #2 was shot. It was somewhat dark here as well but the tripod was especially useful for a couple of reasons. First of all, I needed to use a telephoto lens to isolate the falls in a composition that was pleasing to me. In case you didn’t know, the longer your zoom, the faster your shutter speed needs to be to allow you to handhold and still retain a sharp image. Well, in the dark Tongass there was no way I could keep this image sharp while handholding.
I also knew that I wanted a long exposure so that the cascading water would take on a silky appearance. Hurray for the tripod! This shot was 1/4” at F11 at ISO 100
As you can see, your tripod really opens up your photographic opportunities in situations where quality photography would be nearly impossible otherwise.
Even on bright sunny days, when handholding is possible, many pros still resort to their tripod for several reasons. One of the best arguments is that by taking the time to mount your camera to your tripod you are slowing down your image taking process. Rather than taking a quick snapshot, you can ,instead, study your composition and fine tune it. Once you think you are set, it is a good idea to scan around the edges of your frame and make sure there are no extraneous elements that might distract from your main subject. A client at a recent workshop aptly dubbed this exercise “border patrol”. Often, we can be so focused on the main subject of our image that we forget to see what else is in the frame.
Sometimes, ok most of the time, it’s a pain, but I’d rather make the effort than miss a possibly great image.
Take your tripod!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 12:51 PM
with Wayde Carroll
Hello and Welcome!
Hello! Welcome to the first posting of "Capturing Alaska".
This blog will be updated weekly and will focus on capturing the incredibly diverse state of Alaska through photography. The aim will be to give you some insight into the techniques, challenges, and eye- popping experiences, encountered while photographing Alaska throughout the year.
A big "Thank You" to Alaska Magazine for bringing this to life.
In case you're wondering who in the world I am, well, I'll tell you!
I am a full-time stock and assignment photographer just recently relocated back to Alaska from northern California where I was an established shooter for several outdoor publications for the last eight years. Prior to that my wife, Lisa, and I spent two years in Anchorage, while she pursued her master's degree, and then had the pleasure of living in the Yup'ik village of Eek, on the Lower Kuskokwim Delta, in the southwestern corner of Alaska. Lisa had taken a job teaching there and I tagged along, the budding photographer. The year we spent in Eek started my love affair with this amazing state. After returning to California I started to come up for a few weeks every summer but could never get my fill. This state is enormous, so much to see! I spent my winters reading about Alaska and planning my next trip. Finally I realized that this was "The Place"; the landscape that stirred my soul and caused my breath to quicken. I didn't want to visit anymore. I wanted to have access all year. My wife saw it in me as well and was gracious enough to allow me to disrupt our cozy life, now filled with two beautiful children, and transport it back here.
I am a new-comer, a cheechako if you will, in this place riddled with so many fine, established, Alaskan photographers, but my excitement is boundless and my "things to shoot in Alaska" list is endless.
So please join me as I explore my favorite place on earth, camera in tow!
Scroll down for more images!