Denali – Friday Photo

Friday Photo—It is those photos, which come with a story, that photographers always remember.

I am taking you back, WAY BACK in today’s Friday Photo. The original photos of Denali and the Alaska Range were taken in the summer of 2004 when my wife Heather and I were on a 14 day backpacking trip in Denali National Park. I shot 6 original photos at sunrise with the intent of creating a composite panoramic at a later date. In a weird coincidence, I scanned the original slides for this photo on 4/20/2005, almost 15 years ago to the day!

When I created this pano, I had to first scan all of the slides, then layer & align each one into Photoshop by hand and individually mask them into the panoramic you see here. Photoshop had no automation script back then. It wouldn’t even align the layers automatically. EVERY part of this photo had to be created by yours truly. I remember it taking over a month to actually finish the photo to my satisfaction. 

The Story

Heather and I could only handle the Wonder Lake Campground for two nights on this trip. It wasn’t because of the weather—no we had camped in rain before. It wasn’t the temperatures—those were in the 80’s. It was literally the mosquitos—those were in the billions. I am talking so many blood sucking bugs, that as we fell asleep the first night, all you could literally hear was a 100db sound of buzzing wings. The late Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead would have been proud of the racket these bugs were humming, because they would have in fact competed with the db levels of a Motörhead concert.

The impressive sound levels went by the wayside the moment you stepped out of the tent. They were on you with the density of a powdered sugar on a powdered donut. I am talking about a fresh out of the oven Dunkin’ Donuts’ powdered donut mind you.

Imagine a white t-shirt turned completely black because it was literally covered with a million mosquitos at one time. Yes, that is the absolute, unexaggerated truth. We learned quickly, that the only way to combat them was by saturating a layer of clothing, in 100% DEET repellant. At that point, they still buzzed around your head in a holding pattern waiting for the repellant to just wear off in the slightest.

Since I seem to be a magnet for mosquitos, I was ready to pack up our shit and head for dodge within mere minutes of our arrival. Heather found the resolve to make me wait it out for a day or two. Hoping that the rain would clear and the mountain come out. I began to hear the mosquito version of Edgar Allen Poe’s, quoth the Raven, Nevermore.

Day two at Wonder Lake gave me welts from head to toe. Thousands of them. And though the rain stopped the mountain was still no where to be found. I made the decision to get the fuck out there on the first morning bus of day 3.

I am scratching my body right now remembering this day.

It was during the blue light hours of the third day that the buzz of the mosquitos woke me out of a swollen slumber. Our tent was looking south towards the Alaska Range and “The Great One”—Denali. As I put on my glasses to see what was going on outside, I was floored. There in all their splendor were the mountains we came to see. I quickly threw on my DEET saturated clothes, grabbed my camera pack and tripod, and headed out into the tundra to set up a shot. After looking at the enormity of the range in front of me, I quickly decided to try something that I had yet to attempt—the composite panorama. I leveled my tripod, spun my ballhead across the overall photo’s range to get the right angle for the camera body, then waited for the sun to rise. Click.

Settings and Equipment

Nikon F5 | Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 lens | Bogen aluminum tripod | Bogen ballhead

ISO 50—Fujichrome Velvia Film | f/22 | Shutter 1 second | Spot metering

Original images scanned on a Tango Drum Scanner and processed using Photoshop 3 on a first generation Apple Mac Pro

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