Great Cameras and Joel Sartore’s Great Course

moose calf d4_nThe drive from Anchorage to Seward can usually be counted on for wildlife viewing. Grizzly bears, black bears, Dall sheep and moose are all possiblities, and eagles are a given. On our first trip of 2013, we found a young moose grazing on pond weeds and willow buds. 

Last year at this time we were shooting with a Nikon D60 and a D90. Our three most frequently used lenses were a Tamaron landscape lens, a Nikon 60 mm prime and a Sigma 50-500. We got some really good photos with this gear, but we were eager to make some upgrades.

moose calf d800

Although it’s late May, Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula is still pretty brown and you don’t have to go very high in elevation to find everything covered in snow. But spring is definitely here. Today (May 24), temperatures in Seward broke 60 under cloudless blue skies.

After months of reading and research and lengthy discussions with a new friend who knows way more about this than we do, we purchased a D800, a D4 and several new lenses. Equally important was taking Joel Sartore’s 24-lecture course Fundamentals of Photography, a first-rate DVD course offered through The Great Courses. We had been reading all kinds of articles and books and we subscribe to Outdoor Photographer. We had also taken a few courses at Ritz Camera back when we were living in Sacramento, California. All of this was useful. But none if it provided the learning experience Fundamentals of Photography gave us. Armed with our new gear and committed to faithfully following Joel’s lessons, we could see our skills improving from week to week.

moose calf 2 d4_n

Our usual MO while driving Alaska’s highways and hiking the trails is to have either a landscape lens or a normal lens on one camera body and a larger wildlife lens on the other. We still talk about the time when, new to this part of the world, we saw two magnificent bull moose feeding near each other at a small lake. “I’m sure we’ll see lots of these now that we’re up here,” one of us said as the other kept driving. Needless to say, we’re still looking for another shot like that one. Lesson learned. 

Hopefully this summer will be another Alaskan safari – packed with birds, fish, mammals, wildflowers and the kind of scenery that causes one’s jaw to drop and hang.

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