Bears Along the Kulik River

The Kulik River in the Katmai National Park, Alaska

I’ve just returned from 5 days in Katmai National Park in Alaska.  My good friend, John Dubois, and I spent most of the time on the Kulik River shooting (with cameras, that is) Brown (Grizzly) Bears and the fall colors along the river.

Departing from Anchorage was a thrill all by itself, since the winds and rain that have been rampant in Alaska this summer made our twin-engine KatmaiAir Navajo departure late, and the climb-out a bit thrilling.  But once on the way, I was once again awestruck by the spectacle that is Alaska.

The Kulik Lodge was our home for 4 days.  Great, great setting, and even better hosts and staff.  Like most photographers, I know Brooks Lodge as the most popular go-to stop for bear photography.  But, I wanted to try something else. So, after some research, we decided on Kulik instead.  And, am I glad.

At this time of year, the Salmon are making their run, and the bears flood the river to fish and fatten up for the brutal, oncoming Alaskan winter and their struggle for survival.  So from a photographer’s viewpoint, there isn’t a much better opportunity to see and capture images of them close-up.

The weather didn’t cooperate fully, with rain and wind two of the days.  Nevertheless, we ventured out in the boats with our guide each day just before sunrise (8:00 a.m. there this time of year).  Turning out for the boat with waders and gear, even that late in the morning, is more difficult than back at home when the sun rises almost an hour earlier.  Each day’s full schedule and toting of all my equipment left my shoulders and back aching for the hot-tub, a good shower and a hot meal.

At promptly 6:30 each morning, our guide awakened us with a knock and left a full pot of hot coffee at the door.  A made-to-order breakfast followed before we donned the waders, boots and parkas. 

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A Time-Lapse Helper

I’m just now beginning to do some experiments into the world of time-lapse photography.  Nothing to show or report yet, but I’ll return to the topic later, when (and if) I find enough success to talk about.  But, in the beginning stages, I found out that one of the first challenges is to determine how many exposures, over what period of time, how long the video result will be, and at what framre rate.  I visited a few tutorials and even attended one of the feature sessions on the subject at Photoshop World.  Alas, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one who struggled a bit with even figuring out the initial stats without a calculator.

So, I created this little helper for myself.  I shared it with a few friends and found out that others might find it useful.  I printed it out in color, trimmed it to 4″x6″, laminated it, and keep it in my bag as a “Cheat-Card” to get me to first base in shooting time-lapse.

In short, it is a two-part chart where I can start with the time-span I wish to cover (such as the two hours of sunset, or the 6 hours of a storm event, etc.).  Using that as a starting point, I determine (guessing would be more accurate) of what the interval should be for the exposure frequency.  There are a number of guidelines out there for various intervals paired to the type of situation (such as moving clouds, slow construction, etc.), so for now, I won’t comment on that until I have more time-lapse experience.

After chossing the desired time-span and shooting interval, the chart shows (Side 1) the total number of exposures to be taken.  This may not sound important, but I quickly found that exposures numbering in the high-hundreds or even over a thousand, one has to take memory storage and power supply into account.  Taking the time-span and shooting intervals used from Side 1, the second chart (Side 2) shows the ultimate video play-length based on one of the most popular frame-rates of 30fps.  I’ve also included the formulas to help me determine time-spans, shooting intervals and frame-rates not charted (in case I have my iPhone calculator handy!).

It’s not meant to be a complete tool, but again, was originally intended for my personal use, so please don’t expect it to tell you how to do time-lapse, or anything else other than basic data.  All I ask is that you do me the favor of replying that you’ve downloaded it, and of course, to let me know of any errors you find or comments that you have.  Oh, and by the way, since most of us don’t expect to shoot more than 1,200 exposures, or to want final video times of less than 2 seconds, I’ve blanked out cells outside these ranges in the charts to make them less cluttered.  If you’re interested, it can be downloaded by clicking this link:

Download TimeLapse Helper (PDF)


Hope you find it helpful.



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Nevada Clouds and California God-Beams

On my drive back from Las Vegas several weeks ago, I routed through the Owens Valley of California and to Reno.  I had an amazing display of clouds to enjoy most of the way back. Near Bishop, California, it began to sprinkle, quickliy turning into one of those summer rainstorms that we hear about in the desert and mountain regions, complete with lightning and rainbows.

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