This is my first trip report, shoot report, adventure story, not sure what to call these. Please let me know if there is anything in particular you want to hear about.
Just back from a weekend ‘up the road’ where I shot photos of some new friends snowkiting. The Windzup team from Utah is visiting Alaska for a kiteboarding tour of our ‘last frontier’. Over the weekend they were a few road hours north, so I drove up to meet them and shoot some photos of this up-and-coming adrenaline sport. This winter I have been playing a bit with these kites, or should I say they have been playing with me, so I was not only interested in getting out there to shoot some kiteboarding photos, but also to see some good kiters, and drool on a few of the new ozone kites. My wishes where granted with two great days of both. The people couldn’t have been nicer, and the weather was awesome.
Saturday morning Anders Gustafson and I drove the 4 hours up to Turnagain Arm and met Brian and Heather Schenck (owners of Windzup) and one of their team riders – James Brown. Also there was John, owner of KiteAlaska, and a mixed group of avid kiters from around Alaska.
When we finally found everyone Saturday morning the conditions where near whiteout with snow falling and the wind blowing a steady 15-20mph. The day was spent kiting on a frozen marsh and lake next to the Seward Highway. There was virtually no terrain other than drifts of snow forming crusty ridges on the lake. This didn’t stop James from getting plenty of air to excite the photographer. Both Brian and James were incredibly accomodating, acting as if they were models hired for the day I had plenty of good opportunities despite the challenging conditions. I’m always surprised how well a lens hood keeps blowing snow off the front of my lenses. The snow kept up until about the last half hour of action which enabled me to shoot a few photos in some sweet winter afternoon light. I was alternating between wide-angle and telephoto lenses, keeping both the 5D and the 1DMII hung around my neck. Especially in conditions like those on Saturday it’s very nice to have two camera bodies going so there is less need to change lenses and potentially get snow blown into the camera.
Sunday morning was crystal clear with a nice light wind. We met up at Portage Lake and found the conditions perfect – sunshine, steady wind, and fresh snow. This time the terrain had a lot more to offer with the banks of the lake allowing the experience kiters to ride up the 10-30ft banks and then launch out over the lake. Once again I was a spoiled photographer with James doing whatever I asked, and a lot of things I wouldn’t even think to ask for. I also shot photos of an avid kiter Tom who when asked where he was from said “I’m from Oregon, but I moved to Alaska this fall to snowkite.” After photographing him flying out over the lake some 20 times I believe him. I asked for some tips on flying with kite and he explained that learning to control the kite when you are flying backwards is key, that, and not looking down.
Each day there was about 12-20 different snowkiters out for the unofficial event. Which is an impressive crowd of colorful kites and people zipping back and forth. There is something magical about harnessing the wind to get your adrenaline fix. It’s inspiring to see a small crowd of people out having a blast making almost no noise and burning no fossil fuels.