North Sawyer Glacier 1

North Sawyer Glacier 1, Tracy Arm, Alaska

I have mixed feelings about photographing tidewater glaciers in Alaska.  They are beautiful to visit, but I also know they will never be in the same position in my lifetime because of glacial recession due to climate change.  During my previous visits to Tracy Arm, it was very difficult and dangerous for me to get close to the North Sawyer Glacier and impossible to approach the South Sawyer Glacier.  The lack of floating ice during my recent visit might have been for a variety of reasons, but there is no denying that I would not have been able to stand on this recently exposed granite ledge when it was covered by the glacier a few years ago.  After dedicating my last 4 summers to photographing Southeast Alaska, I have adapted my shooting style from always chasing dramatic sunset light to appreciating the subtle colors of the consistent overcast conditions.  I was drawn to the red color of this ledge system and the patterns reminded me of Native American rock-art in the Southwest.  There was no safe place to land my inflatable, so I had my dad drop me off for a few hours so that I could do my thing.  He patiently floated amongst the ice and watched harbor seals until he saw me start waving like a mad-man wanting to get picked up.  I wonder what the people on the handful of tour boats thought of the guy in the red jacket and bibs standing on this lonely ledge taking pictures?

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    Hi Jon,

    Great images… i had a question. It’s clear that you do some hiking and backpacking to get your great images, and I was just wondering what tripod and head you carry with you? I’m a mountaineer and I like to travel as light as possible, so I started carrying with me a small little JOBY gorillapod, but it doesn’t always do that great in wind, and when I need anything higher than 12″ of the ground, it’s not the best option. I am wondering if there is a good tripod that can be carried with a pack, i.e. not too heavy, but that offers good stability for great image quality. I know you’re really busy… thanks for your time.


    Great question, Jonny! I use a Gitzo GT2931 basalt tripod most of the time. I won that tripod a few years ago from the Art Wolfe EPI. I’ve also been using an Acratech Ultimate ballhead for several years. It is pretty lightweight. I had always wanted a lighter tripod for backpacking, and last year I was fortunate enough to get sponsored by Gitzo with a GT1541. I think that tripod, plus Really Right Stuff makes a tiny ballhead would be just the ticket for you! I’d hate to use that tripod at full height or all of the time, but that is the set up I plan to take backpacking in Patagonia & Nepal in 2011. I hope that helps & please send me some pictures once you start using it.

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