Tidal Flats, Cook Inlet, Alaska, USA by Brenda Tharp

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Picture Story

Every time I fly to a bear camp in Alaska, I remind my workshop participants and myself to keep a camera and zoom lens out of the bag for making aerial photographs along the way. The terrain we fly over is a mix of tidal flats, forest ponds, ocean shorelines, and we fly near to snow-covered mountains of the Alaska Range, too. You never know what the weather conditions will be like, but if we are flying, then chances are it will be pretty good. I have made this flight at least 7 times now, and each time have created pleasing compositions of the mountains, glaciers, ponds reflecting the forests and clouds, and tidal flat designs.

Each trip is unique, and for me very exciting. On this trip, the tide was out and the tidal flats were colorful with salt-loving plants. The stream reflected back the blue of the sky. It was really wonderful to see the curves along the river and the way smaller streams stretched out through the tidal mud. You need a fast shutter speed because you are closer to the ground, usually about 700 - 1000 feet in altitude. My 24-105mm allowed me flexibility in compositions, and I had to be quick in seeing the potential, since you don't get to go back and do it over.

Since they balance the plane by all the weights of the passengers, you don't always know which side you'll be on, going to the camp, but because we hug the coast of Cook Inlet south of Anchorage for some time, you have opportunities out both sides of the small plane. Aerials that can capture the art of our earth are of strong interest to me. We rarely get to see what our planet looks like from above without being at 40,000 feet. Small planes allow us a more intimate view of the earth's surface and offers incredible opportunities to make artistic photographs. Having done this several times now, I'm looking forward to using my 70-200mm the next time for even more abstracted images.

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