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WET WET WET

Iliamna, Alaska - 2023

I have largely moved my focus away from wildlife over the last few years, but I am in awe of some of the work I continue to see from other photographers in this challenging and crowded space.

One assignment in the wild, that still excites me enough to take it on every year, is the sockeye salmon run in the rivers to the south of Iliamna, Alaska. It may be an annual summer event, but unlike Wimbledon, the dates are never locked down and so much depends on random variables such as the snow falls in the preceding winter, spring temperatures and the consequential river levels. This year the salmon started to run about 12-14 days after the median date from the last 20 years; we had to adapt.

We had some tough days in Alaska in the summer of 2023, but we also had our moments. This tight portrait, on a miserable rainy evening in very low light, offers a generous level of textural detail. I like working when there is no sun, especially in places like Alaska, as the narrower tonal range removes noise and elevates the subject. I know it sounds counter intuitive to wish for bad conditions, but in the field, I prefer to get wet more than I prefer to get sunburnt.

This picture has a symmetry to it and the bear's eyes are engaged. It was a lucky glimpse of a moment and a passing testament to the camera's capability. The operating performance of cameras has improved so much during my career and no more so than when working in low light conditions. My shutter speed was necessarily low and I was lying flat on a moving river boat, so all I can claim credit for is avoiding camera shake. To be fair, most of what I took that night was rubbish, but you only need one.

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